WASHINGTON, D.C. — The D.C. Attorney General is suing Marriott International, Inc., alleging that “drip pricing,” or adding additional “resort” fees to hotel booking price is misleading and unlawful.
The lawsuit alleges that because these fees are added toward the end of the reservation process, they are considered misleading even if customers are still able to abandon the reservation once that fee is disclosed.
“The District brings this action to require Marriott to be straight up and transparent with consumers by setting forth the true price of the hotel room, including resort fees, amenity fees and destination fees when it first displays the price of the room,”says Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “By charging resort fees and by failing to clearly disclose them to consumers up front, Marriott has found a way to increase profits without appearing to raise prices.”
In an interview with LinkedIn, Marriot CEO Arne Sorenson points out that resort fees, as well as airline baggage fees are common practices. “What we’ve tried to do is be very clear about our disclosure,” he says.
Sorenson also indicated that the company has been speaking with the attorneys general of multiple states for several years and that the company plans to fight the suit.
Until now, consumer protection laws have traditionally not been applied to injuries that consumers could have reasonably avoided. However, under the D.C. Consumer Protection and Procedures Act, the D.C. Attorney General is alleging that the multinational hotel company reaped millions of dollars by intentionally deceiving customers for years.
“This lawsuit has been expected for a long time as hotel companies are well-aware of the controversy regarding resort fees,” says Daniel Prywes, partner at Morris, Manning & Martin’s Litigation Practice. “This latest lawsuit will no doubt lead some to reassess the legal risks presented by the way they advertise prices and disclose resort fees and to consider alternatives to mitigate those risks.”