Recreation.gov, the online reservation platform for the National Park system, is facing a multi-million-dollar lawsuit for junk fees.
A lawsuit has been filed against Recreation.gov, a national portal for accessing recreational activities on federal lands. It is a popular platform for reserving campsites, floating rivers, and heading into the backcountry in the National Park System and other federal lands.
The National Parks Traveler has delved into the matter, providing the following information we have summarized and more.
What Is the Lawsuit Against Recreation.gov?
The filing alleges that the website is cluttered with unauthorized and potentially illegal fees that benefit government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., which operates the site.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and at least $5 million in damages, requesting that Booz Allen be ordered to refund consumers for processing, lottery, and cancellation fees charged on the Recreation.gov website and mobile app.
Seven outdoor enthusiasts filed the suit in hopes it will become a class-action suit that covers “[A]ll individuals in the United States who were charged a Junk Fee on the Recreation.gov website and/or App.”
The plaintiffs' attorney has stated that the challenge is not against the use fees that go towards funding access to federal lands, but against the transactional junk fees paid to Booz Allen. The case hinges on whether the fees are allowed under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and how they are to be spent.
Booz Allen's Response
Booz Allen has disputed the allegations, stating that they are proud of their work and that the allegations reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of their work supporting the government. More than 95% of this century-old corporation's contracts are with the federal government.
The Arguments Against Recreation.gov Junk Fees
The lawsuit also cites a previous U.S. District Court ruling that held that a processing fee charged by Recreation.gov to access a reservation system for a national conservation area was improperly administered because the public had not been given an opportunity to review and comment on the fees when they were proposed, as required under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.
The plaintiffs argue that Booz Allen's fees are similar to questionable fees imposed in car rental agreements and hotel stays and by Ticketmaster on entertainment ticket purchases. The Biden administration has labeled such fees as “junk fees.”
The Biden administration has recently taken steps to eliminate junk fees across various industries, including air travel and telecommunications. Whether the lawsuit against Recreation.gov leads to changes in the website's fee structure remains to be seen.
We will continue to monitor and publish updates when available.
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