Hotel guests claiming they were charged “junk fees” that violate California’s consumer protections and unfair competition laws are suing Marriott International.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday with the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, defendants Marriott International, Courtyard Management and Marriott Hotel Services are accused by plaintiffs Nina Baek and Megan Ramsey of charging hotel guests with “unfair, deceptive, untrue and misleading” fees that “result in Marriott gaining an unfair advantage over its competitors in the hospitality industry.”
Marriott has charged guests at select Los Angeles-area hotels a “Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance Costs Surcharge”— or “HWPO Fee” or “local fee” — following the city’s enactment of the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance in August. The ordinance is intended to guarantee hotel workers’ fair pay, set workload limits and offer additional protections against sexual or violent assault or other threatening conduct.
The fee ranges from approximately $10 to $14 per room per night, depending on the hotel. The Los Angeles Airport Marriott, which Ramsey stayed at on June 7, charges $13.87, while the Residence Inn by Marriott at 5933 W. Century Blvd., where Baek stayed on June 11, charges $11.92.
The plaintiffs argue that the fee “far exceeds the costs of compliance” and is a “junk fee under the guise of ‘worker protection,’ directly benefiting Marriott at the expense of their guests.”
The 1,004-room Los Angeles Airport Marriott, which averages an occupancy rate above 80%, would make more than $10,000 per night from the HWPO Fee, or more than $3.6 million annually, the lawsuit details.
The ordinance does not specify how hotels should pay for additional worker protections.
Currently, the lawsuit details, the HWPO fee is advertised to guests at the booking stage via a banner that reads: “Please note - A daily Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance Costs Surcharge … will be added to the room rate.”
The plaintiffs argue the “hidden” fee gives Marriott an “unfair advantage over its competitors by enabling it to market rooms at a lower rate, then offset the discount with the HWPO fee at booking.” They believe the added cost should be included in the advertised room rate.
The lawsuit was filed a week after members of Unite Here Local 11, California’s largest union of hospitality workers, voted to authorize what would be the largest hotel workers’ strike in U.S. history. The strike is in response to months of stalled negotiations between the union and hotel companies, including Marriott, to increase hourly wages to keep up with the rising cost of living and safer workloads.
The plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated current and former hotel guests, have called for a jury trial on all claims in the “junk fees” lawsuit. Marriott declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, and the City of Los Angeles could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, Marriott was fined $225,000 by Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry for failing to comply with a 2021 settlement that required the hotel brand to prominently disclose its mandatory resort and destination fees as part of the total room rate on the first page of its U.S. booking websites.