POSTED: Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 8:10am
UPDATED: Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 8:19am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Can you trust advertised prices these days? The Department of Transportation recently cracked down on the airline industry. Now advertised fare prices must include all of those taxes and fees that were previously tacked on at the end.
While the airlines are being forced to comply with new pricing regulations, consumer advocate Michael Shames says others in the travel industry are still confusing customers with hidden taxes, fees and surcharges.
Shames says hotels and rental car companies are the worst.
"They're guessing about half the customers won't even notice these fees, won't even notice the taxes, all they see is a credit card charge," Shames says.
"I think part of it is that they're worried that the higher price is going to scare people off. So, I'll bring you in with the lower price and then give you all these fees," explains San Diego Marketing professor Michael Belch.
Professor Belch just rented a car for a winter vacation. The advertised rate was $16.94 cents a day, or $67 for four days.
"Then of course they added a concession recovery fee for $7, a customer facility charge fee for $16, energy surcharge for $1, vehicle license recovery for $3.52 and then of course the taxes for a total of $111.17," he says.
It's not so much about fairness as deceit. How can you trust a business when they won't give you the real price?
"The notion of a wholesaler or retailer being honest with them used to be an expectation, and maybe it's not so much for a lot of customers now," Shames says.
That's a sad state of affairs for consumers.
Instead of trust, we now have to enter into business deals as skeptics, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
Still, honest companies can be penalized when their competitors don't play by the same rules.
So what can you do if you find a company is hiding fees and taxes?
"Let them know you don't appreciate it. Complain in writing to management or simply go somewhere else. If you don't find out about the fees until you get the bill, challenge it with your credit card company."