Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist announced a price gouging settlement with a Sarasota motel that had been accused of inflating room rates for guests fleeing Hurricane Charley last year.
Under the settlement agreement, the Airport Inn will provide restitution to guests affected by the price gouging practices, many of whom were over age 60.
The Attorney General’s Office received initial complaints of overcharging from consumers who contacted the office’s price gouging hotline. Additional complaints were received after the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit launched an investigation into the allegations against the motel, which is located at 8440 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
Investigators reportedly found that during the two-day evacuation for Hurricane Charley, the daily rate for rooms at the motel increased from $55 per night to $75 and, in some instances, $100 per night. Under Florida’s price gouging law, this increase constitutes a “gross disparity” between the regular rate and the amount being charged during the emergency, subjecting the motel to price gouging action.
“This settlement reinforces the message that Florida cannot and will not allow such practices,” said Crist. “It is unthinkable that anyone would consider making an unjustified profit at the expense of unfortunate citizens.”
The motel has 45 days to locate consumers who may have been charged the inflated prices between Aug. 12 and Aug. 30, 2004, and refund the difference between what they were charged and the usual nightly rate of $55.
This formal agreement marks the 23rd settlement in which the Attorney General’s Office has obtained restitution for victims of price gouging stemming from the 2004 hurricane season. This figure includes 16 formal settlement agreements, as well as other cases that were resolved before formal complaints were filed.
Under this agreement, the Airport Inn will also provide $2,000 to the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund and $5,000 to cover the state’s legal fees and costs of investigation.
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