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Those Pesky Hidden Hotel Fees May Soon Be a Thing of the Past

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A new bill promises to take the surprise factor out of hotel pricing.

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A new bill promises to take the surprise factor out of hotel pricing.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would prohibit hotels from advertising a room rate that doesn’t disclose additional fees.

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If you have ever had sticker shock upon glancing at a final hotel bill that is suddenly grossly inflated by a pileup of additional fees you never even knew existed, a less-shocking checkout experience may be on the way.

A bill was introduced into Congress this week that would protect travelers from hotel fees that aren’t clearly disclosed in the advertised price. Called the Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019, the legislation is intended to make sure that consumers are provided the full pre-tax price of a hotel room while searching for and comparing lodging options.

Travelers have been “subjected to deceptive hidden fees charged by hotels, motels, and other places of accommodation,” stated  Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who co-sponsored the bill with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

By the end of this year, hotels could collect upward of $3 billion in hidden fees for all of 2019, Johnson noted.

The legislation comes in the wake of legal action that has been taken against hotels regarding the same issue. This summer, the District of Columbia Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Marriott International and the Nebraska Attorney General filed a suit against Hilton Worldwide, both for deceptive resort fee practices.

The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019 would make it illegal for hotels and other short-term lodging and rentals to advertise a rate for a room that does not include all required fees other than government-imposed taxes and charges.

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Consumer advocacy nonprofit Consumer Reports immediately threw its support behind the new bill. Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumer Reports, said in a statement to AFAR that consumers don’t deserve to “get stung” with a higher bill than they were expecting.

The Federal Trade Commission has in the past warned hotels and online travel agents that they were not properly disclosing fees on their websites, but the practice has continued, as have consumer complaints about it.

Said Lauren Wolfe, counsel for Travelers United, an advocacy group for travelers, “The U.S. Congress is taking on the most hated fee in travel.”

There is no precise timeline as of yet regarding the next steps for the bill.

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