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DC Sues Bethesda-Based Marriott For Deceptive Hotel Rates

Patch logo Patch 7/11/2019 Alessia Grunberger
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BETHESDA, MD — D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has sued Marriott International Inc., alleging that the Bethesda-based company has lied to customers about its hotel rates.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Racine says the hospitality chain has used an illegal trade practice called "drip pricing," which involves hiding a portion of a hotel room's daily rate from guests and later charging them additional mandatory fees. Those extra charges, according to Racine, are sometimes referred to as resort, amenity, and destination fees.

Racine calls it "a straight-forward price deception case."

"One key effect of this price deception is that consumers shopping for a hotel room on either Marriott's 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," Racine said. "Marriott's motive in continuing this deceptive practice is pure profit. It has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade from this deceptive 'drip pricing.'"

The suit states that Marriott's resort fees range from $9 to as much as $95 per day.

Racine says that the District is filing this lawsuit to force Marriott to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms.

"Marriott's unlawful trade practice has affected District consumers, as Marriott has charged resort fees to tens of thousands of District consumers over the years, charging those consumers well in excess of a million dollars," the lawsuit states.

The hotel industry is no stranger to the "drip pricing" practice. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission warned hospitality groups that this deceptive trade practice — as it relates to charging mandatory resort fees — may violate federal consumer protection law.

The FTC further explained that the resort fee should be built into the largest and most prominent price for a hotel room. Guests should know up-front what they are paying, not later in the checkout process.

According to Racine, the FTC has already sent Marriott a warning letter.

The Washington Business Journal reports that a Marriott spokesperson said that the company does not comment on active litigation.

The lawsuit brought forth by Racine is part of an ongoing multi-state investigation into the hotel industry's pricing practices. Started in 2016, the lawsuit is being conducted by attorneys general in all 50 states.


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