Living in America today requires taking frequent emergency actions to avert the latest civic crisis, be it a high-stakes election, a GoFundMe for someone who slipped through the cracks, or a petition to halt something destructive.
We're sorry to have to contribute to your to-do-or-die list. But if you want to be rid of sleazy hotel fees once and for all, your county needs you to write a sentence or two.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which governs business practices, is putting junk fees under a microscope, as discussed in this Washington Post feature that I was quoted in. Part of that federal process involves collecting complaints from consumers. Lots of them.
You know how America works: Corporations and hyper-wealthy people shovel lots of cash to politicians, which buys them free pass after free pass. Yet when everyday consumers need their own issues addressed, they have to marshal action in huge groups.
This is the moment to register your displeasure with the terrible hotel fees that we know you're sick of. If the FTC doesn't receive your complaints, hotel-owning political donors can claim their scammy fees aren't a big problem despite getting outlawed in many other places in the world, including Europe.
But if enough of us raise an official ruckus during this comment period, then the FTC will have more of a mandate to create tougher rules that allow the government to enforce penalties. That is exactly what we've been begging for.
You know what junk fees are. They are frequently masked by official-sounding names like destination fee, urban fee, amenities fee, concession fee, franchise fee, venue fee, and facility fee, but they're never included in the base price.
You've probably paid untold sums of these charges out of your own savings. Here at Frommer's, we've exposed the fees again and again as the accounting shell game they are, depriving local governments of earned taxes and unfairly gaming online booking engines.
Still, we'll allow the FTC's own words to put a fine point on the fees' true cost:
"Companies charge junk fees in a wide range of contexts, including cramming in hidden fees to which consumers did not consent, misrepresenting optional services or upgrades as mandatory, and charging for products or services with little or no value," writes the FTC in its call for responses. "For example, consumers purchasing tickets or booking a hotel room may find a surprise junk fee tacked on at checkout. These junk fees—which add up to tens of billions of dollars each year—can drive up prices, make comparison shopping difficult, and leave consumers feeling powerless and cheated."
If travelers doubted whether most resort fees were frivolous, the service slowdowns during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic proved it. For years, hotels had pretended that extra fees exist to pay for amenities. But in thousands of hotels around the nation, access to amenities such as swimming pools and fitness centers was forbidden even though resort fees were still being charged for those things. The purported link between fees and amenities was shattered.
File your comment online at https://www.regulations.gov. Look for the dark blue "comment" button near the top of the page, and write “Unfair or Deceptive Fees ANPR, R207011” on your response.
If you would rather mail your comment on paper, send it to this address:
Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex B)
Washington, DC 20580
Again, write “Unfair or Deceptive Fees ANPR, R207011” on your comment.
You don't have a write much. Just a single sentence about what you think about these supplementary fees can be enough.
But if you'd like to pop off about politely explain why you think they're scams, there's room for that, too. There's even an optional section of the online form that allows you to send files (like photos or PDFs of bills) from your travel experiences that illustrate why you think the fees are deceptive and should be outlawed.
It helps if you use your real name, but you don't have to.
"These policies will not change unless Americans across the country comment on why this issue is important to them," says lawyer Lauren Wolfe, whose consumer advocacy group Kill Resort Fees has been going after some of the biggest hotel giants in court. "Commenting is an essential part of eliminating junk fees. Any comment, even something as simple as 'please end hotel resort fees' makes a huge impact."
All comments must be received by January 9, 2023. Give 'em hell, travelers!
You might also like: How to Get Out of Paying a Hotel's Resort Fee—It Can Be Done!