HONOLULU (Legal Newsline) - A Hawaii woman has filed a class action lawsuit against the Priceline Group Inc. and the Marriott International Inc. for allegedly assessing hidden resort fees.
"In today's era of ubiquitous Internet-based hotel booking, which allows for immediate price comparisons between dozens of hotels in a given locale, hotels like Marriott and third-party booking websites like Priceline compete for customers by purportedly offering the lowest room rates online," the complaint states. "Hotels and third-party booking websites have a huge incentive to post base rates that are as low as possible."
However, Kathleen Soule claims that until very recently, the defendants misrepresented the price that consumers could expect to pay for their hotel rooms by omitting "resort fees," which are mandatory charges supposedly assessed for the use of a hotel’s features, from room quotes, according to a complaint filed Oct. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
During the booking process for certain hotel rooms on Priceline.com, including for Marriott hotel rooms, the defendants omitted resort fees from posted room rates for certain hotels, in an effort to make certain hotels appear less expensive than they actually were, according to the suit.
"Consumers making internet bookings for hotel rooms on Priceline.com were thus deceived into choosing hotel rooms, the true, total price of which was never revealed prior to booking," the complaint states. "In fact, for bookings on Priceline.com, defendant Priceline never adequately informed consumers of the mandatory nature of resort fees, and never informed consumers of the amount of those resort fees prior to booking—despite the fact that Priceline had full knowledge of the amount of resort fees consumers will be required to pay."
Soule claims during the class period, the defendants misrepresented the room rates at certain hotels because they omitted mandatory "resort fees" of $30 or more per night at these hotels.
Because the "resort fees" are mandatory, there was no reason to omit them from the base room rate, other than to deceive consumers, according to the suit.
"Just as a hotel could not tout a low room rate, then charge extra for use of the shower after the guest arrived, it cannot exclude a mandatory 'resort' fee from the room rate," the complaint states.
Soule claims if a consumer has to pay this charge for the use of a room, it is not a separate "fee" at all, but part of the room rate, according to the suit, and it should have been disclosed as such.
The defendant allegedlys charged the resort fees whether or not a hotel guest requested or actually used any of the supposed amenities covered by the "resort fee."
"Unlike the infamous airline checked-baggage fees, in which a consumer is at least paying for a service that she intends to use, defendants charge resort fees even if a consumer has no wish to use or intention of using the services it purportedly covers," the complaint states.
Soule claims the resort fees can add a full 30 percent onto a hotel bill.
Soule claims the use of deceptive pricing practices like resort fees harm consumers, competitors and Hawaii's important tourism industry.
Soule is seeking class certification, restitution of all resort fees paid and actual and punitive damages with pre-judgment interest. She is represented by John Francis Perkin and Brandee J.K. Faria of Perkin & Faria; and James J. Bickerton of Bickerton Dang LLP.
The case is assigned to District Judge Susan Oki Mollway.
U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii case number: 1:14-cv-00462
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.