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Feds warn hotels against surprise, tacked-on fees

WASHINGTON -- Federal consumer-protection officials have warned hotel operators against tacking on unexpected fees that are not apparent when people book rooms on their websites.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that it had sent letters to 22 unnamed hotel operators whose websites may violate the law by misleading consumers about the total cost of a stay.

"Consumers are entitled to know in advance the total cost of their hotel stays," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

The websites don't mention mandatory fees, sometimes called "convenience" or "service" fees, for things like newspapers, use of gyms and pools, or Internet access, the FTC said. It said the fees can be as high as $30 per night.

The letters to hotels strongly encourage them to review their websites and ensure that they do not misrepresent the total cost of staying at a hotel. They advise recipients that the FTC "may take action to enforce and seek redress for any violations."

The announcement did not name the hotels that received the letter. FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordan said the agency wants to give them a chance to comply because this is the first time the FTC has publicly stated its position on the issue. 

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