Marriott International, Inc. faces a proposed class action that claims the hotel operator has used “drip pricing” to deceive consumers into believing they’ll be charged a lower room rate than they actually end up paying.
In reality, the 28-page case alleges, the rate consumers are initially shown on Marriott’s and third-party travel agency websites does not include certain “resort fees,” “amenity fees,” “destination fees,” or other taxes and fees that are added later in the checkout process. As a result, consumers are tricked into believing Marriott’s hotel rooms are cheaper than they actually are, the suit says.
“Marriott has profited enormously from these practices,” the complaint claims, alleging the worldwide hotel operator has “reaped hundreds of millions of dollars” by charging added fees not initially disclosed to consumers.
The lawsuit explains that the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 warned the hotel industry that not including resort fees in the room rates initially shown online is a violation of consumer protection law in that it misrepresents the price travelers will pay for their rooms. Per the case, the FTC noted that the “largest and most prominent price” for a hotel room should include the resort fee and be presented to customers upfront rather than later on in the checkout process. Marriott, according to the suit, received one of the FTC’s warning letters about this practice.
The defendant has nevertheless continued to employ deceptive “drip pricing” practices, the case alleges, claiming Marriott’s resort fees can amount to as much as $95 per day at some properties. According to the suit, the rate consumers are shown upon searching for a hotel room on Marriott’s website does not include or disclose the mandatory resort fee. It’s only once a consumer reaches the “Review Reservation Details” page for a specific room that are they shown the “USD/Night” and “USD Taxes and Fees,” with an option to select a drop-down menu labeled “Summary of Charges,” the lawsuit relays. If the consumer selects the “summary of charges” drop-down menu, it’s revealed that the total cost includes a “Destination Amenity Fee,” “Estimated government taxes and fees” and a list of additional charges that may include per-day rates for on-site and valet parking, the suit states.
Some properties owned, operated or franchised by Marriott, however, do not charge an amenity fee, the lawsuit says. According to the case, Marriott uses “USD Taxes and Fees” to represent one component of the hotel room rate regardless of whether it includes an amenity fee.
The lawsuit alleges that similar tactics are employed on third-party online travel agency sites, such as Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity.
The case goes on to contend that Marriott misleads consumers as to what amenities are actually “free” or complimentary. According to the suit, the defendant advertises that the amenity fee “includes high speed Internet/resort equipment rentals/fitness classes and more” while representing in other places that these amenities are “Complementary” or “free of charge for hotel guests.”
Marriott further misleads consumers displaying strikethrough bargain prices, according to the suit. The case alleges that although the lower rates advertised next to crossed-out higher rates lead consumers to believe they are receiving a bargain, the added, undisclosed fees cause consumers to pay a higher price than the advertised rate.
The case echoes a similar lawsuit filed against Marriott in September 2019 over its apparent drip pricing practices.
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