Marriott International has agreed to include mandatory resort fees in the room rate in an agreement with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office after an investigation led the AG to believe the company was in violation of consumer-protection law.
The settlement was filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Nov. 16. Marriott has nine months to implement the agreed-upon changes, which will be effective nationwide.
Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro's investigation focused on the practice of "drip pricing," when fees are gradually disclosed to consumers as they go through the booking process. The total price of the room is not revealed until the final page of online booking or, in some cases, not until the guest checks in at the hotel.
Shapiro argued the practice is deceptive and a violation of Pennsylvania's Consumer Protection Law.
"Hotels shouldn't be able to slap hidden fees on top of your bill at the last minute, and thanks to this settlement we're putting the hotel industry on notice to put an end to this deceptive practice," Shapiro said in a statement announcing the settlement.
"With costs going up and more seniors and families traveling for the holidays, consumers should beware of these surprise fees when booking. Marriott has stepped up to commit itself to fix this practice and we expect more hotel chains to follow suit."
Under the settlement, Marriott has committed to implementing a transparent system for disclosure of mandatory fees, including resort fees, as part of the total price of a hotel stay, theoretically making it easier for consumers to compare prices across multiple hotels.
Among other provisions, the agreement requires Marriott to prominently disclose the total price of a hotel stay, including room rate and all other mandatory fees, on the first page of its booking website as part of the total room rate.
As part of the settlement, Marriott has not admitted to any violations of law.
"Marriott International has long been committed to making sure that any resort/destination fees charged by hotels in the U.S. are separately and clearly stated," the hotel company said in a statement.
"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."
Travelers United, a consumer-advocacy group that has brought a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Washington, D.C. against MGM Resorts International for similar practices, commended the settlement.
"American consumers will finally see a change in the way hotel prices are displayed after the Pennsylvania attorney general took a stand on behalf of American consumers," Travelers United counsel Lauren Wolfe said in a statement. "Advertised room rates now require all mandatory fees are included in the advertised price of the room."
In addition to the Travelers United case against MGM, the attorneys general of Nebraska and the District of Columbia have ongoing litigation regarding the disclosure of resort fees against Hilton and Marriott, respectively.
Correction: The Pennsylvania attorney general did not file a lawsuit against Marriott. An agreement was reached after an investigation into drip pricing by the AG.