A California consumer alleges in a proposed class action lawsuit that Marriott International has for at least the last decade engaged in unlawful “drip pricing,” a tactic by which the hospitality behemoth allegedly hides a portion of a hotel room’s daily rate from customers. The effect of “drip pricing,” the suit alleges, is that customers are deprived of the ability to accurately derive and compare hotel room rates online.
According to the 22-page complaint, Marriott refers to the hidden portion of a hotel room’s rate by a variety of monikers, including calling the charge a “resort fee,” “amenity fee” or “destination fee.” The effect this has, the plaintiff argues, is that consumers looking to book hotel rooms online are misled into believing the total cost for a room is cheaper than the price Marriott actually charges. As the lawsuit tells it, Marriott’s motivations behind its apparent “drip pricing” are purely monetary.
“Marriott’s motive in continuing this deceptive practice is pure profit,” the case reads. “It has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade from this deceptive ‘drip pricing.’”
The lawsuit leans on the propensity of consumers to book hotel rooms online, stating that Marriott’s website and similar booking sites allow for the prices of hotel accommodations to be sorted according to the daily room rate. While this sorting feature enables consumers to compare prices between different hotels, Marriott’s alleged omission of certain fees in its initial room rates deprives customers of the ability to “readily ascertain and compare the actual price of a room at a Marriott hotel” to a room at one of the company’s competitors.
Further, the complaint alleges Marriott also leaves out of its initial room pricing the mandatory resort fee, which can sometimes hit $95 per day, that the company adds to each daily room charge. In many instances, the lawsuit says, Marriott tacks on the resort fee within the “taxes and fees” wrapped into a room’s total cost, which the plaintiff argues is misleading to consumers who believe the additional fees they’re footing are government-imposed as opposed to merely another charge from Marriott.
The plaintiff looks to the court to stop Marriott from engaging in its alleged “drip pricing” practice, as well as to force the company to “advertise up-front to consumers the true prices of its hotel rooms.”