A growing number of class-action lawsuits could become a new headache for hotel companies as the U.S. spotlight shines on "junk fees."
Yet another U.S. hotel company faces a lawsuit about disclosing mandatory resort fees. Sonesta, which runs more than 1,200 hotels under various brand flags, faces a class-action suit in Washington, D.C., over how it displays its resort fees on its website and app.
The move comes after Hyatt, Marriott, and MGM Resorts have responded to lawsuits by U.S. state attorneys general by disclosing upfront mandatory resort fees when an online shopper first sees rates returned for a search on their sites and apps.
“More lawsuits against more companies are coming,” said Lauren Wolfe of consumer advocacy group Travelers United, which filed the class-action suit against Sonesta.
The suit (embedded below) alleges that since at least 2017, Sonesta has made “tens of millions of dollars each year” by not disclosing upfront its mandatory resort fees and destination fees at some of its properties. The fees can exceed $40 a day, the lawsuit alleges.
“Even when a consumer selects a particular hotel on Sonesta.com, Sonesta still does not disclose the total nightly price when the customer is given the option to select their room type,” the suit says.
The case alleges that a consumer has to click an “expand price details button” to discover that a “taxes and fees” line item includes a “destination fee” separate from taxes.
Skift saw the same thing in its test search for The Royal Sonesta Kaua’i Resort Lihue — where a mandatory resort fee of $47.18 a night, including taxes, covers “cultural classes,” a silicone wristband, daily yoga and aqua fit classes, free Wi-Fi, a snorkel or boogie board rental, and two Mai Tai drinks.
Sonesta isn’t alone. All of the major hotel groups and many smaller hotel brands have engaged in the practice of junk fees in the past couple of decades.
“Since 2015, both the nightly resort fee rate and the number of hotels charging resort fees has continued to grow,” said Randy Greencorn, who runs the site Resort Fee Checker.
Here’s the lawsuit:
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Photo credit: The swimming pool at Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square Hotel. Source: Sonesta.