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Update: Today, August 16, 2022 was the original implementation date for this settlement. However, Marriott and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have agreed to extend the implementation date from August 16, 2022 to January 23, 2023. Here is the court filing for this amendment to the settlement:
Here is the updated story:
In a legal settlement in late 2021, Marriott agreed to clearly list its resort fees on the first page of hotel results. This sounds like a win, but it's not an “across the board” win. And, it doesn't go into effect immediately. In fact, we are already more than nine months after the settlement and Marriott still hasn't taken the first steps in complying.
Here are the good and bad elements of this agreement, plus what it means for consumers.
What are Resort Fees?
Lest you be confused, don't confuse resort fees with all-inclusive fees or taxes or anything else like that.
Resort fees are an “extra” that hotels add to the price of your reservation, just so they can keep more of your money. If you book through a website like Hotels.com or Priceline, that website gets a commission. The hotel you're staying at loses some of the money from your reservation. To keep more of your money, hotels add “resort fees”, since the booking website doesn't get a commission on that part of the reservation.
Thus, hotels have invented resort fees for all sorts of things — even nonsense. I once paid a resort fee in New York City that included “access to booking discounted tickets for local attractions”. These resort fees pad the hotel's profits, and you pay the fee whether or not you use the “perks” the fee covers.
The Battle Over Resort Fees on Marriott Bookings
Marriott has faced several lawsuits over its resort fees, such as this one from the Attorney General in Washington, D.C. The claim is that adding resort fees at the end of your booking (or when you show up at the hotel) masks the true price of your hotel booking. What looks like a $100 hotel booking could turn out to cost $150, and the argument is that this isn't fair to consumers.
By tacking on the resort fee at the end of the reservation process, the lawsuits claim that hotels lump the “resort fee” in with “taxes and fees” to make it look like this is a mandatory fee — not something optional that the hotel chose to add.
In fact, it was only in April 2020 that Marriott added an optional feature to see the “total” price earlier in the booking process. This would add in everything — taxes, fees, and also the resort fee — but it was not a default setting. Now the legal settlement Marriott reached will require automatically showing these resort fees.
Interestingly, Marriott's own terms state that Wi-Fi is free for Bonvoy members. Since numerous hotels list Wi-Fi as part of what the resort fee covers, this turns into a situation where Bonvoy members now are paying for something that should be free.
One Mile At A Time has an interesting write-up about benefits that Marriott hotels should give you as a replacement (plus the fact numerous hotels seem unaware of this requirement to provide a replacement).
Marriott's Legal Settlement in Pennsylvania
In mid-November 2021, Marriott settled with the state of Pennsylvania. In the legal settlement, Marriott has agreed to prominently list its resort fees on the first page of the booking process. Thus, would-be hotel guests should see from the outset what a stay will cost — rather than a surprise when fees are added on the last page.
Per Marriott's statement about the settlement, Marriott agrees to “enhance the way resort/destination fees are fully disclosed”:
Our agreement with the State of Pennsylvania further enhances the way resort/destination fees are fully disclosed on our U.S. channels and we will be working over the next several months to update the room rate display in accordance with that agreement.
The legal settlement itself gives Marriott an even longer nine-month implementation period from the November 15, 2021 Effective Date:
“Implementation Date” shall be as soon as reasonable, but no later than nine (9) months after the Effective Date, taking into account the comprehensive efforts required by Marriott to update multiple platforms and systems to ensure complete implementation.
What This Means Going Forward
At some point between now and
August 16, 2022 January 16, 2023, Marriott has agreed to prominently list its resort fees on the first page of the booking process. However, this only applies to properties in the U.S. and bookings made with Marriott (such as its website and phone app).
Notice that doesn't include properties elsewhere and doesn't include other websites, such as Expedia or Hopper. Those websites are not required to clearly display the resort fees at Marriott properties at the start of the booking process. There's no word if online travel agencies will also disclose these fees — but they likely won't. Not displaying the fees early on can make it look like their price is lower than Marriott's price.
Additionally, this doesn't mean that resort fees will be waived or go away. This agreement also doesn't impact other hotel chains, which have their own legal battles regarding resort fees.
How to Avoid Resort Fees
If you want to avoid resort fees, there are a few things you can do. The most obvious solution is that you can simply not book a hotel that's charging you resort fees.
Additionally, the following hotel brands state in their terms that they will waive resort fees on award stays:
Moreover, Hyatt states in its terms that resort fees are waived for Globalists on all stays, no matter how you're paying.
Radisson's policy is “it's up the hotel”. Some hotels will waive resort fees on award stays, while others won't. You won't know until you attempt to make an award booking and then see if the fee is there or not.
This agreement requiring Marriott to more clearly indicate resort fees on Marriott bookings is a small win. Many people will be happy to see progress here. Whether it makes resort fees less common remains to be seen. Will people be less willing to book hotels with these fees, thus driving down guest numbers and leading to changes? Time will tell.
While Marriott must clearly list the resort fees on its own website, this only applies to hotels in the U.S. and doesn't apply to any other brands or hotel aggregator websites.
It's already been more than nine months since the settlement and Marriott still hasn't any first steps in complying. In the meantime, you can check the box to “show rates with taxes and all fees” to be able to compare all-in prices between Marriott hotels.
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