White House report slams ‘hidden fees’ charged by hotels, airline and other businesses

Passengers pick up their luggage at Los Angeles International Airport. The National Economic Council issued a report that criticized "hidden fees" charged by airlines and other businesses.
(Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times)

In the final report before the end of his term in office, President Obama’s National Economic Council lashed out against “hidden fees” charged by airlines, hotels and other businesses.

The council, made up of various department and agency heads within Obama’s administration, said fees that are not readily disclosed make it hard for consumers to pick the lowest price in airfares, hotel rates and other services.

“When pricing is unclear, it threatens the competitive process by which consumers make decisions,” the report said.


Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America, agreed with the findings of the report, saying “consumers are being deliberately fooled by advertised prices that fail to include the full amount they’ll have to pay.”

One example raised in the report is resort fees, which are often mandatory at large resorts but don’t show up on online booking sites when travelers are comparing hotel rates.

Another example is airline fees, such as charges to check luggage and change flights. The report noted that those two fees alone generated $22.5 billion for the world’s airline industry in 2015.

The National Economic Council said baggage and change fees fall into a “gray zone” between being optional and mandatory for travelers. If they are mandatory, they should be included in the flight’s total advertised price, the council says.

“The question of what counts as ‘the entire price’ has for regulators, proved to be an evolving question,” the report said.


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