Published on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

US hotel faces hefty fine for hurricane price hike

A hotel in Texas could be forced to pay a six-figure fine for hiking its rates when the state was hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Best Western Plus Tropic Inn is accused of profiteering by the Texas Attorney General after raising its rates nearly 300% during the storm.

The hotel's usual $108 nightly rate surged to $289, the AG's lawsuit alleges.

It also collected hotel occupancy tax on top of the room rate, even though state taxes had been waived by the Texas governor's office for storm victims and first responders.

The hotel is now known as The Tropic Inn after Best Western cut ties last week following the allegations.

"Best Western was founded on the principles of honesty, integrity, compassion, and service.~ We were deeply offended and saddened by the actions of this hotel. As a result, we severed the relationship with the hotel," the company said in a statement.

Under state law, it is seeking $20,000 in damages for all customers, but if a customer is aged 65 years or older, that can rise to $250,000.

The Attorney General's Office also filed lawsuits against two other companies for charging up to $9.99 for a gallon of gas.

"It's unconscionable that any business would take advantage of Texans at their most vulnerable - those who are displaced from their homes, have limited resources, and are in desperate need of fuel, shelter and the basic necessities of life," attorney general Ken Paxton said.

The AG's office has received more than 3,000 complaints of price gouging since Harvey hit and Paxton said more lawsuits are possible.

"Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey," Paxton said.

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