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D.C. Attorney General Sues Marriott Over Hidden Hotel Fees

Maryland AG Brian Frosh and D.C. AG Karl Racine at a 2017 press conference

Marriott International is coming under fire for adding fees on top of the price it advertises for hotel rooms. 

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Bethesda, Maryland-based company, alleging Marriott has violated the District's consumer protection laws with misleading and deceptive pricing practices. 

The lawsuit says Marriott charges fees beyond the advertised price as high as $95 per night that do not appear until a customer is finalizing the booking process. It says it calls them "resort fees," "amenity fees" or "destination fees" and often lumps them in with taxes to make them appear as if they are imposed by the government rather than an additional charge from the hotel operator.

By doing this, the lawsuit says Marriott increases its profits without having to raise the price advertised for rooms. Marriott declined to comment. 

Racine said the lawsuit seeks monetary relief for tens of thousands of D.C. hotel customers, and he hopes to force Marriott to increase the transparency of its prices. 

"Marriott reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profit by deceiving consumers about the true price of its hotel rooms," Racine said in a release. "Bait-and-switch advertising and deceptive pricing practices are illegal."

Consumer advocacy groups have spoken out for years about hidden hotel fees, arguing that they represent false advertising. The lawsuit says the problem has worsened as consumers increasingly use online booking sites to compare hotel prices, making the industry more competitive. 

The largest hotel chain in the world, Marriott operates over 7,000 properties in 131 countries across its 30 separate brands. The company operates at least 29 hotels in D.C., the lawsuit said.