This likely won't be the last lawsuit against online travel companies related to allegedly deceptive fees because Booking Holdings is not the lone party handling fees in this way.
The State of Texas filed a lawsuit against Booking Holdings, alleging that it violates state law by marketing hotel rates in a deceptive manner because it doesn’t include a variety of fees when it initially displays room prices.
“Consumers who use Booking websites to search for and compare prospective hotel accommodation options by price in accordance with the daily room rate are misled because the price advertised does not include the mandatory fees that are subsequently added during the purchase process,” the lawsuit said. “Furthermore, Booking’s actions place hotels and other competitors that include mandatory fees in the price initially advertised for hotel rooms at a competitive disadvantage.”
The lawsuit, filed in District Court in San Antonio Thursday, seeks a temporary restraining order, and then a permanent injunction and civil penalties. The Texas lawsuit came as the Biden administration and Congress take a look at the impropriety of a variety of “junk fees.”
Earlier this month, Skift CEO Rafat Ali spoke out about junk fees in the travel industry:
You can read his open letter here.
The lawsuit accuses Booking Holdings and sub-brands including Booking.com, Kayak, Priceline and Agoda, of illegally excluding a variety of resort, destination and amenity fees from the initial hotel rates they display, and also deceptively bundling “taxes and fees” with no transparency later in the booking process.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton noted in announcing the Booking lawsuit that in recent months the state sued Hilton and Hyatt for allegedly deceptively displaying their fees, and reached settlements with Marriott and Omni Hotels.
“Booking thwarts comparison shopping across different websites because its websites deceptively fail to present the total room cost upfront, whereas certain of its competitors operate transparently,” the Texas lawsuit against Booking stated.
For example, Marriott.com displayed a room at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa for a June 28 stay at a $465 nightly rate, and the hotel chain explicitly mentioned that the price included a resort fee, the lawsuit said. However, Booking.com showed the same room on the same night at $409 with no mention that the hotel would charge a resort fee, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that Booking’s practices violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Booking Holdings didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Photo credit: A Booking.com suite inside Wembley Stadium. Source: Booking.com