Suing away resort fees: DC goes after Marriott

Washington, DC hopes to finally kill off hotel resort fees the old fashioned way: a lawsuit. The District Attorney General announced the suit against Marriott International for violating DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act by charging the fees to tens of thousands of consumers from the District in recent years.

At issue is whether the DC laws can be applied to a multinational company, as well as if the “drip pricing” mechanism can truly be outlawed. Less significant, but still relevant to the case, is Marriott’s representation of the resort/destination fee as part of a “taxes & fees” line item that the District asserts “led consumers to believe the resort fees were government-imposed charges.”

The lawsuit targets only Marriott today (on the same day that a $125mm fine was announced related to the SPG database hack), though presumably could also apply to other hotel chains or even individual properties with similar policies. It is hard to see how the DC Attorney General is going to solve the problem more broadly if the office has to fight each of these battles individually. And, unlike the airline industry where a single ruling by the Department of Transportation addressed the situation completely, there is no enforcement body that appears empowered to make such a ruling for hotels or other segments.

There’s also the question of why hotels are being targeted for not listing all-in pricing when pretty much every industry in the USA – except for auto fuel and airlines – doesn’t face that requirement. It would almost certainly be better for consumers if they all did, so that is not necessarily a strong justification for hotels not being required to do such, but I would expect that Marriott will use that as part of its defense.

Somewhat surprisingly, the District AG does not make mention of the tax avoidance facet of the fees. Because they are not part of the base room rate they don’t get charged the same taxes in some jurisdictions. Then again, this is a consumer pricing lawsuit, not a taxes play, so it probably makes more sense than not.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Has Congress pre-empted the applicability of DC law upon all corporations with a nexus in DC? If not, then the lawsuit can’t be dismissed so easily on behalf of Marriott.

    Congress has not pre-empted the applicability of state law upon all corporations with a nexus in other parts of the US, so other parts of the US can certainly proceed much in the manner of DC.

    Being a multinational corporations doesn’t make a company immune from any and all legal jurisdictions in which the company may have a nexus.

  2. Resort fees are a bloody joke you pay for your holidays and then when you get to the desk they add additional fees (resort fees) love America but this is the last time we will be there in 2017 we paid $495 dollars in Las Vegas the sooner they do away with it the better

  3. I hope this suit is successful. I truly despise “resort fees” that are added to even the most run-down property, and are never part of the advertised price.

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