Ed's Blog

FTC to hotels: Nuisance add-on fees deceptive

By Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned 22 hotel chains that add-on fees, such as resort or newspaper fees, may be deceptive. The FTC notes that "The warning letters cited consumer complaints that surfaced at a recent conference the FTC held on “drip pricing,” a pricing technique in which firms advertise only part of a product’s price and reveal other charges as the customer goes through the buying process."

I was at a hotel this summer and the default, when I checked out, was to charge me a fee for that safe in the closet. They'd obviously had a lot of grief. When my bill was being added up, the clerk simply said, "You didn't use the safe, did you? I will deduct that fee." I've also stayed at hotels that charged a $25/day resort fee for the tennis court and pool-- use it or not.

Meanwhile, air passenger groups led by Flyersrights.org and the Business Travel Coalition are asking consumers to petition the White House to require that the Department of Transportation require full disclosure of "Scrooge" airline fees. You can sign the White House petition here at the WH "We the People" website. 25,000 signatures are required for consideration. It says (in part):

"We petition the Obama Administration to:

Proceed immediately with a U.S. DOT rulemaking to restore air travel comparison shopping for consumers.

Airlines have been charging for services such as for checking bags and have been hiding fees by withholding information from travel agencies such that consumers cannot efficiently compare the prices of alternatives and must visit numerous airline websites. This unfair and deceptive marketing practice is harming consumers."

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