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Planners: Sound Off on Hidden Hotel Fees

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is taking comments. Time to get your beef with “junk fees” off your chest.

Facing rising operational costs, staff shortages, and other challenges, the hotel industry is unlikely to want to stop charging tacked-on daily fees that cover things like gym access, Wi-Fi, pool towel services, and parking. It might have to anyway if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has its way.

Those charges, sometimes called resort fees, destination fees, amenity fees, or urban fees, deliver an average of 3.3 percent of hotels’ total revenue, according to one 2018 study, and often range from $25 to $45 or more per night. The problem from a consumer-protection standpoint: The fees are almost never included in the advertised price of the room.

Meeting professionals can work to negotiate these charges down for rooms in their block and should include a clause in their contracts about disclosing all mandatory charges, but transparency remains a problem for many groups and individual consumers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau calls these charges “junk fees” and is interested in curbing their use by banks, credit card companies, and financial services companies, and it also has its eye on hotels and ticket sellers. On January 26, the bureau initiated a request for public comment.

“Companies across the U.S. economy are increasingly charging inflated and back-end fees to households and families. This new ‘fee economy’ distorts our free-market system by concealing the true price of products from the competitive process,” states a press release from the agency. “For example, hotels and concert venues advertise rates, only to add ‘resort fees’ and ‘service fees’ after the fact.”

In the request for information, the agency says it “seeks information from the public on how junk fees—exploitative, back-end, hidden, or excessive fees—have impacted peoples’ lives. … The CFPB welcomes stakeholders to submit stories, data, and information about fees.” The comment period runs through March 31.

This isn’t the first government attempt to rein in hotel fees. In 2019, H.R. 4489, the Hotel Advertising Transparency Act, was introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). The bill, which would have required fees to be included in the advertised price for a room, died in Congress. The Federal Trade Commission has also gotten involved in the issue, repeatedly sending warning letters to hotels misrepresenting their room-reservation price to consumers.

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