The Federal Trade Commission describes drip pricing as a technique in which firms advertise only part of a product’s price and unveil additional charges later as the customer goes through the buying process. Airlines, hotels, rental car companies, and cell phone companies are known to use this practice.
Hotels often charge mandatory fees, sometimes called “resort fees,” for amenities such as newspapers, use of exercise facilities, Internet access and towel rentals. The FTC says these mandatory fees can be as high as $30 per night.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Better Business Bureau offer these tips for protecting yourself:
- Educate yourself. Read the fine print before paying. Know the difference between estimated price and actual price.
- Confirm the details. Call to confirm the price of whatever you are purchasing. If calling a hotel, ask specifically about any “resort fees.”
- Fight the charges. If you were charged fees that were not disclosed in advance, ask to speak to a manager to determine if they can be removed.
- Boycott companies. Tell a company that you plan to discontinue doing business with it and that you plan to let others know why. Negative word of mouth, including with the help of social media, can hurt a company’s reputation.
- Carry your own insurance. Often your own car insurance will provide coverage for a rental car. Check with your insurance company before purchasing insurance from the rental agency.
- Pack lightly. Fewer bags mean fewer fees for baggage checking.
- Cancel in time. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently enacted rules to allow passengers to cancel their airline reservations within 24 hours of making them as long as the reservations were made a week before the trip dates.
- Report abusers. File a complaint with the FTC by visiting /www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or calling 1-877-382-4357. File a complaint with the Better business Bureau by visiting www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Complaints, or call (703) 276-0100 for more information.