Traveler advocacy group sues MGM Resorts over resort fee practices

Mar 11, 2021

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Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Travelers United has filed suit against MGM Resorts International over what they assert is the systemic practice of charging customers deceptive resort fees in violation of the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Lauren Wolfe, counsel for Travelers United, made the following statement:

“Resort fees are a clear violation of DC’s consumer protection laws. It is time to end the abhorrent practice of illegal resort fees by the hotel industry. All mandatory hotel fees must be included in the advertised price in order to be legal. MGM’s deceptive practice of hotel resort fees must end.” 

MGM declined to comment for this story.

MGM resorts across the country regularly advertise room rates that do not disclose or include the often substantial resort fees. Here is the rate calendar for Las Vegas for next week from the Park MGM website:

Not included in the prices is an additional $39 resort fee per night (more expensive than the advertised room rate) that is also taxed identically to the advertised room rate. On the summary screen for the booking, you’ll see in smaller print the resort fee and tax on the defacto second room rate that, in this case, is more than the advertised room rate.

All MGM Resorts nationwide charge resort fees that are not included in many marketing materials and further hidden on third-party booking engines that don’t receive a commission on the resort fee portion of the room. We’ve previously included Vegas and casino resort fees as some of the worst offenders which is why I try and maintain my Caesar’s Diamond status that waives resort fees on all property stays.

In 2017, the FTC’s Economic analysis of resort fees stated the practice is harmful to consumers and in 2011 the Department of Transportation ruled airlines must advertise airfares inclusive of all taxes and fees. The double standard when it comes to hotel price advertising has always been frustrating and continues to dupe unsuspecting customers into thinking a stay will be cheaper than the reality of the final bill.

The lawsuit against MGM is the latest in a string of suits hotel chains are now facing in court. Ongoing court cases include the Attorney General of Nebraska suing Hilton for misleading consumers in Nebraska regarding the true cost of certain Hilton hotel rooms and the Attorney General of Washington D.C. suing Marriott for misleading District consumers with resort fees.

Just last week, Washington D.C. was looking for witnesses to testify in the impending trial against Marriott. The Public Advocacy Division of the Attorney General’s office was looking for consumers to come forward by March 8 about their booking experience with resort fees.

While lawsuits like this latest one often take years to work their way through the court system, legislation could end the practice almost immediately. In 2019, the “Hotel Advertising Transparency Act” was introduced in Congress with a Democrat and Republican as the co-sponsors. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce but stalled there.

While the larger system continues to play out, consumers who want to help end the practice can file complaints with your state Attorney General who is in charge of consumer protection as well as follow our advice on how to avoid resort fees on your next hotel stay.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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