TALLAHASSEE – Attorney General Charlie Crist today announced that his office has reached an agreement with a Lee County hotel resolving the first price-gouging case filed by the Attorney General’s Office related to Hurricane Wilma. The Fort Myers Inn has agreed to reimburse guests who paid inflated prices during Hurricane Wilma and to change its business practices.
Crist’s office filed a case against the hotel last October, alleging that room rates were improperly increased by as much as 108 percent. The hotel, located at 4400 Ford Street Extension in Ft. Myers, reportedly increased its room rates after Governor Bush declared a state of emergency for Hurricane Wilma. Florida’s price gouging statute requires that the cost of necessities like food, water and shelter must remain at the average price of the 30 days immediately preceding a major storm like Hurricane Wilma.
“Those fleeing killer storms must be protected from paying inflated prices some can little afford,” said Crist. “This settlement will reimburse those who were charged excessive amounts for shelter and serve as a warning that Florida’s price gouging statute will be vigorously enforced.”
Ft. Myers residents Kristen and Michael Davis evacuated from their home when they lost power and water service, and sought shelter at the Ft.
Myers Inn. They were charged $129.00 per night for their room. Another Ft.
Myers resident, Cecilia Murphy, evacuated from her home on October 22 to avoid Hurricane Wilma and was charged $109.00 for her room, a 76-percent increase. The Davises and Murphy said they felt the approaching storm left them no other options for safe accommodations. Investigators found that several other hotel guests also faced substantially inflated hotel room rates.
The settlement requires the hotel to reimburse guests the difference between the amount they paid and the 30-day average rate of $61.99.
Approximately 150 guests will be refunded an average of $40 for a total reimbursement of more than $6,000. The hotel also agreed not to engage in price gouging. The agreement has been approved by a Lee County judge.
During the past two record-setting hurricane seasons, the Attorney General’s Office received more than 14,000 complaints through its price gouging hotline. The office initiated 72 formal investigations and filed 15 price gouging lawsuits against hotels, generator businesses, tree removal companies and other businesses. Including the Fort Myers Inn settlement, to date the Attorney General’s Office has recovered just under $1 million in restitution for Florida consumers from price gouging settlements and other resolutions. Other investigations and settlement negotiations are ongoing.
A copy of the settlement agreement with the Fort Myers Inn is available at: