User Fees are everywhere these days. Strictly speaking, a User Fee is a fee, tax, or impost payment paid to a facility owner or operator by a facility user as a necessary condition for using the facility. Government agencies use them liberally, for everything from road tolls to park entrance fees, to generate billions of dollars in revenue without raising actual taxes. While it may walk like a tax and it may talk like a tax; but it might very well be a User Fee.
User Fees also are pervasive throughout the private sector. Service providers in multiple market segments rely on added fees for a supplemental revenue stream outside of their basic services and, while they are common, they are also generally unpopular. It’s easy to see why.
User Fees are often undersold or buried in fine print, so they can come as a surprise on the final bill. Likewise, while you can technically “opt out” of the charges, they are increasingly being used on essential items, like carryon luggage or in circumstances outside of your control.
Which is why it is surprising that MCR Hotels announcement that they some of their hotels were starting to charge User Fees for amenities and services, like gym admittance, early check-in or late check-out that were formerly offered at no charge. The announcement generated significant attention within the industry, being mentioned in articles by travel guru, The Points Guy, on Yahoo! Finance pages and in blog posts like that on travel technology platform, Vindow.
The bottom line is – nobody likes User Fees. But as they are being applied in more and more applications that stretch the definition of “non-essential,” it’s time for consumer action to pushback against the practice.