Savvy hotel guests know that it’s important to look over the bill closely upon check out to avoid hidden hotel charges. But some hidden fees can’t be avoided—those mandatory resort fees that don’t appear on advertised hotel fares.
Hidden fees are usually considered a deceptive practice, but because hotels will typically mention extra fees and surcharges in the small print, consumers have had little recourse, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wasn’t doing much to change it.
In 2012, the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices issued 22 warning letters to the hotel industry, urging hotels to make sure that surcharges and fees are displayed prominently and early in the booking process. But by saying that posting surcharges later in the booking process was good enough, the FTC created a loophole that allowed hotels to advertise low rates online and then add the mandatory fees right before purchase, which consumer advocates argued was unfair and deceptive.
That changed back in January when the LA Times reported that the head of the Federal Trade Commission Edith Ramirez called on Congress to enact new legislation to prevent hidden resort fees, which she called “a deceptive and unfair trade practice.”
The FTC may be gearing up to change their rules in response to a sharp rise in the practice of adding mandatory resort fees, which has increased by 8 percent in the first six months of 2016 alone, according to the Washington Post. Now, the FTC is likely to make a move that would essentially put an end to the practice.
That change would feel like a boon to hotel guests, but would be alarming for the hospitality industry. Hidden fees are incredibly common, because they are incredibly profitable. A study by New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism found that in 2015, U.S. hotels were going to collect $2.47 billion in fees and surcharges.
Additionally, some hotels claim that the practice of charging separately for Wi-Fi, gym access, and bottles of drinking water, is less beneficial to consumers. “Resort fees simply bundle together such amenities, up front, for the consumer,” Sara Rayme, a spokeswoman for the American Gaming Association (AGA), which represents casino hotels, told the Washington Post. “As a result, resort fees have provided a much more transparent experience for the customer.”
While Congress and the FTC weigh their options about mandatory resort fees, here’s how hotel guests can avoid a few hidden hotel fees.