To stop hotels from charging hidden resort fees, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez has suggested that Congress draft new legislation instead of having the consumer protection agency investigate hotels on a case-by-case basis.
Ramirez called for such legislation in a letter last week to 10 U.S. representatives who had called the fees "a deceptive and unfair trade practice."
The discussion about how to combat mandatory resort fees that don't appear on advertised hotel fares has gained urgency in recent months with the growing demand for holiday travel and increasing complaints from consumer groups.
A new study by a nonprofit consumer advocacy group found that such resort fees are on the rise, with nearly 200 hotels in California charging an average mandatory resort fee of $17 per night.
The group, Travelers United, say the fees are unfair because they don't appear on the advertised rates and most hotel guests don't see the charge until they get their bill at checkout.
Ramirez said her agency has tackled the problem by warning individual hotels to make sure that the fees are displayed prominently and early in the booking process. But the best way to ban the practice, Ramirez said, is for Congress to adopt legislation.
"In my view, however, the most efficient and effective means to mandate the type of industry-wide requirement you propose would be through legislation," she wrote to the members of Congress.
The American Hotel and Lodging Assn., a trade group for the nation's hotels, said the number of hotels that charge mandatory resort fees is on the decline — only 7% of all hotels in 2014 — and those that do so disclose the fees clearly.
"The lodging industry provides guests full disclosure for resort fees charged upfront," said Rosanna Maietta, a spokeswoman for the group. "Those fees, in addition to the base travel and hotel charges, remain transparent whether consumers book online or with the hotel directly."