|By Paul Owers,, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 6, 2004 - The Days Inn Airport in West Palm Beach has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle price-gouging allegations from customers following Hurricane Charley, the Florida Attorney General's Office said Tuesday.
The hotel at 2300 45th St. was accused of charging two hurricane evacuees $109 for a room and a third evacuee $119. A billboard near the hotel advertised all rooms at the Days Inn for $49.99.
State investigators later identified 46 other people who were forced to pay more for rooms at the hotel.
Under terms of the settlement, Janus Hotels and Resorts Inc. will pay $10,000 in consumer restitution. The remaining money will go to the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund and cover costs of the investigation.
"This settlement marks the end of an unpleasant experience for some of the earliest victims of Florida's historic hurricane season," Attorney General Charlie Crist said in a statement.
A hotel manager declined to comment Tuesday.
Florida's price-gouging law requires that the cost of necessities such as food and water remain at the average price during the 30 days prior to a storm. The law took effect Aug. 10, when Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency.
More than 1 million Florida residents in Charley's path evacuated, and many chose to ride out the storm in Palm Beach County. The storm hit southwest Florida on Aug. 13.
Any other consumers who believe they were overcharged for rooms at the Days Inn can contact the West Palm Beach Economic Crimes Office at 837-5000 within 60 days.
The attorney general's office has filed 13 price-gouging lawsuits statewide following the four hurricanes.
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