ABC News reported that Washington D.C. has filed a lawsuit against Marriott for alleged 鈥減rice deception鈥? referring to the hospitality giant鈥檚 practice of charging its clients non-specific 鈥渞esort fees鈥? which aren鈥檛 disclosed as part of the room rate upfront when customers are making their bookings.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed the suit today against the world鈥檚 largest hotel chain, saying that it has potentially reaped 鈥渉undreds of millions of dollars鈥?through the supposed scheme. It鈥檚 an unlawful practice called 鈥渄rip pricing鈥? wherein hidden fees are later added to an advertised price.
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“This is a straight-forward price deception case,” Racine’s office said in the lawsuit. “For at least the last decade, Marriott has used an unlawful trade practice called ‘drip pricing’ in advertising its hotel rooms whereby Marriott initially hides a portion of a hotel room鈥檚 daily rate from consumers.”
This hidden portion of the room rate is added onto clients鈥?bills, labeled as a nondescript 鈥渞esort fee鈥? 鈥渁menity fee鈥?or 鈥渄estination fee鈥? Legal action was initiated, according to the lawsuit, 鈥渇ollowing an investigation by the Attorneys General in all 50 states and the District of Columbia regarding the pricing practices of the hotel industry.鈥?/p>
The investigation claims that Marriott owns, manages or franchises at least 189 hotels around the world that charge these 鈥渞esort fees鈥? which range from $9 to $95 per day. Under its umbrella, Marriott currently owns 30 well-known hotel brands, including Sheraton, W, Aloft, Renaissance, Westin and Courtyard,
“One key effect of this price deception is that consumers shopping for a hotel room on either Marriott鈥檚 website, or an online travel agency site (‘OTA’) like Priceline or Expedia, are misled into believing a Marriott hotel room is cheaper than it actually is,” states the lawsuit.
Racine’s office also alleges that Marriott was deliberately deceptive in its placement of the bogus charges on guests鈥?hotel bills, adding them to the “taxes and fees” portion, which suggests that they鈥檙e being imposed by a government or municipality, rather than simply being collected by the hotel company.
Likewise, the lawsuit says that Marriott did not include resort fees in its 鈥渢otal pricing鈥?listed on booking websites and online travel agency sites, and purposely employed visual trickery by posting these additional fees in smaller and lighter-colored fonts on its website.
According to ABC News, Marriott has declined to comment specifically on the allegations.