Lawsuit alleges Hilton’s resort fees misled customers in Nebraska

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nebraska’s attorney general is suing the Hilton hotel company, alleging the chain hid the true price of rooms from consumers and charged hidden fees.

While consumers have bristled about resort fees in Las Vegas, no lawsuits have named properties here.

The lawsuit reported earlier this week by The Associated Press accuses Hilton of violating Nebraska’s consumer protection laws. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says the company failed to heed warnings from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and customer complaints.

The lawsuit seeks to force Hilton to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms up front, provide monetary relief to affected Nebraska consumers, and pay civil penalties.

At Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree Hilton resort, the resort fee is $37 per night. Taxes and fees added to a base hotel rate bring a $139 room to a total of $199 per night. On the Tropicana’s website the $37 fee is disclosed with the taxes after consumers select the room they want to book.

Many hotels in Las Vegas are affiliated with Hilton, including the Tropicana, the Waldorf Astoria and Hampton Inns.

David Schwartz, a Las Vegas gaming historian and professor at UNLV, says the problem has its roots in online booking sites.

When people search for the cheapest room rates, hotels want to be at the top of the list. To stay in the competition for those top spots in search results, hotels have shifted costs to resort fees.

Customers prefer one price, he said.

But hotels will keep resort fees so they are on “a level playing field” with competitors. The first resort to consolidate resort fees back into the room rate would no longer have an advantage in search engines.

The Nebraska lawsuit follows a similar lawsuit against Marriott filed by the attorney general of the District of Columbia earlier this month.

A Hilton spokesman says company officials have not yet seen the lawsuit, but says its fees are fully disclosed when customers book through company channels.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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