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White House Announces Junk-Fee Crackdown

Several hotel companies are now voluntarily disclosing resort fees up front in the buying process. If finalized, a new FTC rule would mandate that online travel agencies and other booking channels do the same.


On October 11, the Biden Administration proposed new consumer protections that would block companies from charging hidden fees and force sellers to disclose all mandatory costs up front, which could affect the way banks, ticket sellers, airlines, hotels, and other companies sell their products.

The proposed Federal Trade Commission rule would require transparent pricing and subject violators to civil penalties.

For the group-travel market, hotel “resort fees”—sometimes referred to as amenity fees, destination fees, urban fees, or facility fees—are particularly irksome, driving up guest-room costs by $20 to $50 per room, per night. According to research by NerdWallet, the average among hotels that charge resort fees is $42.41 per day. While the new FTC rule would not require hotels to eliminate resort fees, it would mean that costs would need to be clear in the booking process.

After being hit with a series of lawsuits over how they disclose mandatory fees, several big hotel companies have changed their policies this year. In mid-May, Marriott became the first major chain to reveal all fees early in the purchasing process. In June, Hyatt followed suit, and Hilton announced in September it was moving in that direction.

However, these voluntary policies have not been adopted by all hotel brands, and, critically, they do not carry over to rooms distributed through third-party channels, which can confuse consumers who see different rates at a hotel website and at an online travel agency. Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, told NPR in a statement that AHLA “supports creating a single standard for mandatory-fee display across the lodging industry—from short-term rental platforms, where fees are most prevalent, to online travel agencies, metasearch sites, and hotels.”

“If these rules are finalized, they won't just be voluntary, they'll be made mandatory,” said President Joe Biden in recent remarks in the White House Rose Garden. He called the proposal his administration's “most comprehensive action ever” to eliminate junk fees.


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