Days Inn Airport in West Palm Beach;
Consumers Charged Unconscionable Room Rates While Seeking
Shelter from Hurricane Charley
|TALLAHASSEE- August 17, 2004 - Attorney General Charlie Crist today
announced that he has filed the first round of civil complaints over price
gouging and deceptive and unfair trade practices of consumers as they fled
the fury of Hurricane Charley. In two separate civil complaints, the Attorney
General's Office alleges that a Days Inn in West Palm Beach and the Crossroads
Motor Lodge in Lakeland charged "unconscionable" rates, substantially higher
than their regular rates, to consumers seeking shelter from the storm.
"Hurricane Charley is the worst natural disaster to befall our state in a dozen years, and it is unthinkable that anyone would try to take advantage of neighbors at a time like this. We are taking a two-pronged approach to fight this egregious behavior, " said Crist. "Families putting their lives back together should not have to worry about price gouging."
According to the West Palm Beach complaint, a billboard in close proximity
to the Days Inn Airport at 2300 45th Street in West Palm Beach advertised
rooms for less than $50 per night. Instead, the hotel charged more than
double that amount to three consumers who filed affidavits. Two of the
consumers were forced to pay $109 per night, while the third was charged
$119. Each of the consumers indicated that the hotel told them it had "only
two rooms left," creating an increased sense urgency to pay the inflated
Days Inn Billboard
Office of Attorney General
|The Polk County complaint alleges that Crossroads Motor Lodge, at 3223
U.S. Highway 98 North in Lakeland, advertised rooms available for the night
of August 13 at a rate of $44.79, including taxes and fees. According to
three affidavits taken by Attorney General's investigators in support of
the complaint, one consumer, who is 85 years old, made a reservation only
to have it dishonored; she eventually was able to obtain a room for $61.27
– 37 percent more than the original rate. A second consumer, a woman with
five children, made reservations and paid cash but the hotel later told
her all rooms were taken. Her request for a refund was then refused. The
third consumer also made reservations, paid cash and was later told there
were no available rooms. This consumer did receive a refund.
Crist on Saturday created the Attorney General's Hurricane Task Force, designed to stop the potential onslaught of price gougers emerging in the wake of Hurricane Charley. Criminal and civil investigators from the Attorney General's Office have been mobilized statewide for a crackdown on price gouging on items that are in high demand following a hurricane such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, generators and lumber.
Florida's price gouging statute requires that the cost of necessities like food and water must remain at the price that was average during the 30 days immediately preceding a major storm like Hurricane Charley. Otherwise, violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act provides for civil penalties of $10,000 per violation or $15,000 for violations that victimize a senior citizen or handicapped person.
Office of Attorney General Charlie Crist
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
|Also See:||Florida Attorney General Suing Two Hotels for Alleged Price Gouging During Charley; Most Hotels Very Charitable to Evacuees / August 2004|
|Supply and Demand or Price Gouging? Some San Antonio Hotels Charging Double and Triple the Normal Rates During NCAA Final Four / April 2004|
|Milwaukee Hoteliers Implement 'Rack Rates' for Harley Celebration; Some Call it Gouging / August 2003|
|Florida Attorney General Investigations Racism Complaint from the Southern Inn in Perry, Florida; 'Coloreds' not Allowed in Pool / November 2003|