Travelers May Encounter Less Hassle This Holiday Season

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This post by Christopher Elliott comes from partner site Mint

The 2012 holiday travel season should be better in three important ways. And if it isn’t, you may be able to get help and see your travel company pay for misdeeds.

New rules and regulations are offering protections from practices that, in the past, put holiday travelers in an un-festive mood. They include deceptive airline surcharges, hotel resort fees, and fraudulent car rental damage claims.

So what’s changed this year?

1. Airlines must quote an “all-in” fare

Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation adopted a new rule that all mandatory taxes and fees must be included in advertised airfares. This is good news for people who travel occasionally and don’t know they need to add taxes and other mandatory fees like fuel surcharges to the cost of a ticket to get the actual price.

The new rule needs work – airlines are still allowed to exclude important fees like luggage surcharges and seat reservation fees, which have become common in recent years. But it’s a start.

What if they don’t? If an airline or online agency quotes you an “a la carte” fare you think may violate current regulations, file a complaint with the DOT.

2. Hotels can’t add a “resort fee” after they’ve quoted a rate

If you’ve stayed at an upscale hotel, you may have paid one of these fees – they cover everything from newspapers to exercise and pool facilities to Internet access. These extras can add as much as $30 per night to your hotel bill, and, says the FTC, they may be “unfair and deceptive.” They issued a warning last month that these mandatory surcharges could violate the law.

What if you’re charged a resort fee? Let the FTC know about it. Warning letters have already been sent to 22 hotel operators, which is only the first step. If a company persists, it could be fined.

3. Car rental companies can’t defraud you with a damage claim

Another common complaint involves a car rental company claiming a consumer has damaged a vehicle, then overcharging for repairs.

We still don’t have any laws that specifically prevent this kind of scam from happening. But it appears to be unraveling, thanks in part to a Canadian TV investigative report. So while this kind of mischief is still happening in the U.S., I strongly believe its days are numbered.

What if it happens to you? Contact your state insurance commissioner, state attorney general, and the FTC.

Also, let me know about it. I may be able to help you get a fraudulent bill reversed. I’m strangely upbeat about the upcoming holiday travel season, knowing that consumers have a little more protection.

Who knows, maybe 2013 will be even better.

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