From the state Department of Consumer Protection:
LQ Management LLC, doing business as La Quinta Inn & Suites on Harvard Avenue in Stamford will forfeit to the state $1,800 and in the future will not require longer than normal lengths of stay when severe weather is predicted, the Department of Consumer Protection reported today.
“Apparently, just prior Storm Sandy’s entry into the state, consumers in the Stamford area were pricing hotel stays and were dismayed that La Quinta Inn in Stamford hotel had instituted a seven-night required stay,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today. “Although the hotel did not end up charging its guests for any unused nights, we understand that there were consumers who were forced by this policy to stay at a higher-priced hotel or to weather out the storm at their homes under less than safe conditions.”
La Quinta attempted to justify requiring consumers to buy longer stays than they needed by saying that the change was necessary to compensate for multiple channels in its reservation system. La Quinta claimed that its reservation system was susceptible to overbooking because it permitted reservations to be made simultaneously by phone, online and in person. The Department of Consumer Protection believes that La Quinta should have taken steps to make its reservation system more transparent rather than increase the effective price of a hotel stay at a time when consumers’ normal ability to find other satisfactory choices were severely limited by an impending natural disaster.
“The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act is designed to ensure fairness in the marketplace, and after a thorough review of the facts and the law, it is our position that lodging facilities may not change their regular, everyday prices nor their regular required lengths of stay based on weather predictions,” Rubenstein said. “Raising prices or minimum stays are unconscionable under the law when the provider’s costs have not increased and consumer choice is severely limited by a natural disaster. Natural disasters are a time when we should all pull together. No one should be out to make an extra buck as a result of the misfortunes of others.”
In signing the agreement the hotel does not admit to any violation of the law and denies the allegations.
“With this agreement, however, operators of Connecticut hotels and other lodging facilities are put on notice that we will consider any change to normal rates and regular terms a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act if made immediately in advance of, or during, a weather emergency or other disaster in which consumers may require shelter,” Rubenstein said.