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Lawmakers discuss plan to cut down on unwarranted hotel smoking fees

LANSING -- Lawmakers are considering a new consumer protection bill, a proposal that supporters say would help protect hotel guests from surprise smoking fees.

The legislation would allow guests to request an inspection of their room on checkout, where a hotel staff member would provide them with a written promise that they wouldn’t be charged a smoking fee.

“When they leave, they have the confidence and security of knowing that there will be no surprises later on down the road,” said Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Detroit, sponsor of the bill.

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Young spoke in support of the bill last week, saying that there should be a better defined process for assessing the fees and allowing consumers to effectively guard against unnecessary charges.

“When it has happened before it’s a ‘he said, she says’ because if you leave and you get that fee, there’s really no way to prove that it wasn’t you. And that’s one of the reasons that it’s important to push this forward.”

But representatives from the hotel industry aren’t happy with the legislation. John McNamara, VP of government affairs for the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that the legislation could spread hotel employees too thin.

“As stressed as staff is right now, this this could make it really hard on checkout if you have multiple people who want to do it,” he said.

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McNamara also said that liability policies for many hotels don’t allow guests and employees to be alone in a room together, meaning a second employee may have to join for a large portion of inspections. He added that the policy may work at smaller hotels, but larger resorts would present a problem for staff.

“It could be a five minute car ride from your check in over to the room,” he said. “So you’re now going to have to have like a golf cart there ready to go, or you’re going to have to staff people who then go over and are doing that.”

McNamara says that some involved with the bill have proposed putting a tighter time limit on how soon hotels would have to send notice for any smoking fees.

The legislation was proposed with a similar bill for rental cars, which would give customers the right to a smoking fee inspection when returning a vehicle. Car rental industry groups were similarly opposed to this proposal.

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