Friday, September 21, 2007
Attorney General Abbott Resolves Price-Gouging Case Against Historic Hotel In San AntonioSAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today reached a settlement with Wyndham Hotel Management, Inc., on behalf of The St. Anthony, a Wyndham Historic Hotel Inc., and Wyndham International, Inc., who the Attorney General was investigating for price-gouging consumers during Hurricane Rita.
Under today’s agreement, Wyndham will pay $190,000 in consumer restitution and state costs for investigating the case. Additionally, in the future, Wyndham’s room rate may not exceed its standard room rate by more than 10 percent during a declared disaster. Wyndham is also barred from collecting hotel occupancy taxes from evacuees who are fleeing a disaster.
“Hotels cannot take advantage of Texans during a disaster,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Today’s agreement ensures that Texans fleeing a disaster area will have access to standard room rates. We will remain vigilant and will enforce state price gouging laws.”
Today’s Assurance of Voluntary Compliance concludes a lengthy investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The investigation indicated that The St. Anthony gouged occupants who fled Hurricane Rita. Consumer complaints also indicated that The St. Anthony nearly doubled prices for evacuees who needed to stay additional nights, despite the hotel’s low occupancy rate at the time.
The OAG is working with Wyndham to identify affected consumers and facilitate refunds. Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the Attorney General is authorized to protect consumers during or after official disaster declarations from exorbitant prices for necessities, including fuel, food, lodging, medicines, repair work and other basic requirements. Violators can face penalties of up to $20,000 per incident.