|By Christopher Boyd, The Orlando
Sentinel, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Aug. 2, 2006 - The parent of the Wyndham hotel chain has agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle a long-running legal battle with the state of Florida over undisclosed surcharges added to customers' lodging bills.
Under the agreement, announced Monday, LXR Luxury Resorts will pay customers who unknowingly paid automatic surcharges $560,000. It will also pay the state $1.8 million to cover the costs of a five-year investigation and four years of litigation.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist alleged that hotels run by Wyndham International Inc. improperly imposed resort fees, resort tariffs, energy surcharges, and parking and transportation fees. The state began its investigation in 2001 after discovering the surcharges on travel vouchers submitted by state employees.
LXR, a division of Blackstone Group, bought the Wyndham chain last August. It sold the brand to Cendant Corp. but retained ownership of many of the hotels.
The settlement is similar to one reached with Starwood Hotels & Resorts last year. Starwood agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a dispute with the state over energy fees added to customers' bills.
"We had several cases with exactly the same allegations," said JoAnn Carrin, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office. "Whether it is an energy fee or a resort fee, consumers should know about what they are paying."
As part of the LXR settlement, 38 hotels in Florida agreed to no longer add undisclosed fees to their bills. The hotels include three in Central Florida -- the Buena Vista Place, Summerfield Suites by Wyndham in Lake Buena Vista and Summerfield Suites by Wyndham on International Drive.
In addition, the settlement requires that third party vendors that promote and sell hotel rooms on Wyndham's behalf, such as Orbitz and Travelocity, also disclose automatic fees at the time reservations are made.
Christopher Boyd can be reached at 407-420-5723 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright (c) 2006, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
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