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State briefs for September 16

Regulators crack down on hidden resort fees

HONOLULU (AP) — The state Office of Consumer Protection is investigating resort fees charged by hotel operators as part of a nationwide effort to curb hidden industry fees.

State and federal regulators are in the process of cracking down on hotels that charge resort fees without fully disclosing the charges to visitors.

The resort fees cover costs of hotel amenities ranging from use of hotel gyms, telephone services, access to business centers and other amenities.

“It’s becoming more pervasive in the industry,” said Stephen Levins, executive director of the OCP. “And, number one, we want to ensure that the consumer is fully informed as to what costs are associated with reserving a room.”

Resort fees at Hawaii hotels typically range between $10 and $40 a night and aren’t usually included in the standard room rate on a hotel’s website, but often can be found in the fine print in the company’s online disclosures. The fees are mandatory at most hotels.

If the fees are deemed to be unfair or deceptive, hotel operators can be fined up to $10,000 per violation, Levins said.

Ed Case, an executive with Hawaii’s largest hotel chain, Outrigger, said his company started charging resort fees about a year ago to compete with other hotel operators doing the same thing.

The Federal Trade Commission is considering reforms requiring hotels to include these fees in their listed room rates.

Aggressive sharks near Oahu shore trail spawning fish

HONOLULU (AP) — A recent spate of aggressive sharks spotted near the shore at a popular spot on Oahu’s north side is likely because of the spawning season of a species of fish, a Hawaii shark expert said.

Waimea Bay lifeguards on Monday reported multiple aggressive sharks about 5 yards offshore.

Carl Meyer with the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology said the schools of fish probably are attracting sharks close to the shoreline where they are easier to see.

Meyer, who has tracked shark movement patterns and habitat use around the Hawaiian Islands for more than two decades, expects the shark activity to taper off as the schools dwindle or disperse.

“Juvenile akule (halalu) form schools in many sheltered bays and harbors at this time of the year,” Meyer said, adding that the fish at Waimea typically start to disperse in mid- to late September.

No sharks were spotted Wednesday, but signs remained on the beach at Waimea as a precautionary measure because of frequent sightings during the past several days, including a 6- to 8-foot shark that observed last week feeding on fish about 30 yards offshore.

Species detected at Waimea include tiger sharks, oceanic blacktip sharks, sandbar sharks, Galapagos sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks. It’s unclear at this time what species were observed thrashing in near-shore waters Monday as researchers have yet to retrieve the latest data.

Unemployment rate falls to 10-year low

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s jobless rate fell to a 10-year low of 2.6 percent last month.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Thursday the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.1 of a percentage point from July. The rate was last this low in April 2007.

Department Director Linda Chu Takayama says a 2.6 percent jobless rate means the state is essentially at full employment. That’s when nearly everyone who wants a job has one. The jobless rate under full employment reflects mostly a temporary churn of job losses and gains.

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in August.

The state says the construction industry and temporary worker sector added jobs. Jobs declined in transportation, utilities and retail.

 

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