Grating resort fees could be on their way out

Hotel Front Desk Bell

$20 to use a towel? $15 to work out? $10 to hop on a computer in the business center?

Yes, those pesky resort fees do add up, but they may be old news.

A considerable rise in mandatory resort fees has reportedly caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which is set to consider a change to its four-year-old policy.

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As recent as last July, the FTC was fine with the way hotels handles resort fees. In a sagacious May piece, HOTEL MANAGEMENT's Glenn Haussman pontificated on resort fees and how they were driving a wedge between hotels and guests.

As cited by The Washington Post, in 2012, the FTC allowed hotels to add required fees to their room rates as long as the surcharges were disclosed before the room was booked. However—because this is Washington—it created a loophole that allowed properties to quote a low initial room rate online and then add the mandatory fees later in the process, "which consumer advocates argued was unfair and deceptive."

Now, the FTC may be in agreement. The agency is set to announce a policy shift that would "require resort fees to be included in the initial price quote." 

Basically, you'll still be paying the fees, you just won't see them staring back at you—laughing. 

Add Up

Resort fees cover amenities not previously included in the price of hotel rooms at booking—think gym, business center, pool, etc.

According to WaPo, in the first six months of 2016, resort fees have jumped 8 percent to an average of $19.52 a night. The markets with the biggest increases: the Florida Keys (24 percent), followed by Myrtle Beach, S.C., (22 percent) and Miami (20 percent).

Still, while the FTC may rule to end resort fees separate of the room rate, it doesn't mean the fees are going away. In fact, room rates could shoot up with the folding in of resort fees.

“Breaking apart the resort fee from the room cost has no purpose, except to make the room rate look less expensive at the time of booking,” Randy Greencorn, who tracks resort fees on his site, Resortfeechecker.com, told The Washington Post.

In The News

Earlier this month, a proposed class action was filed in Pennsylvania federal court against Wyndham Worldwide. It alleged that Wyndham was sneaking a resort fee on to its room prices without clearly notifying consumers, causing its rooms to be advertised at deceptively low rates.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Lucas Jr. accused Wyndham "of carving out a portion of its room charge, called a resort fee, and excluding it from the big, bolded number that consumers use when comparing hotel prices online, which is 'the quintessential definition of consumer fraud.'"

“Defendants’ failure to adequately disclose the resort fee charge as part of the true cost of renting a hotel room is deceptive and causes consumers, including plaintiff and the class, to believe that they are paying substantially less than they actually are being charged for a room at defendants’ hotels,” according to the complaint.

Help On The Way

While customers have fought against fees for some time, only recently have they been heard. Earlier this year, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced the Truth in Hotel Advertising Act of 2016, a proposed law that would prohibit hotels from advertising a room rate that doesn’t include all mandatory fees.

Sen. Claire McCaskill
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is taking hotels to task over fees.

Hotel fees continue to rise. Last year the industry raked in a record $2.35 billion from fees and surcharges alone, but that number is forecast to reach $2.47 billion by the end of 2015, according to the New York University School of Professional Studies.

According to Bjorn Hanson, who authored the report, some organizations, such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, assert that the practice of charging resort fees has diminished, a claim he disagrees with.

“The industry is growing more than resorts are growing as part of supply; their share of supply is decreasing,” Hanson said. “Resort fees are so common that guests just accept them. They understand them. And the industry has gotten good at removing opportunities for guests to complain about them.”

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