Settlement in an Area Hotel Price Gouging Case During Hurricane Dennis

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson says there has been a resolution in a lawsuit against a Jackson County, Florida hotel owner in a price gouging case filed last summer.

The corporation that owns the hotel, Shree Hari of Marianna, Inc. has paid a $5,000 civil penalty, made full restitution to the 21 consumers impacted by the price gouging and agreed to comply with Florida law.

Restitution amounts range from a low of $5.72 to a high of $109.56. Total restitution costs are $1,433.98. The majority of the consumers are from the Northwest Florida area.

“I am pleased that we have been able to resolve this case and provide these consumers with restitution,” Bronson said. “It is wrong for anyone to be taken advantage of during a crisis and I think this case sends a message that price gouging will not be tolerated.”

Bronson took legal action against the Ramada Limited located at 4655 U.S. Highway 90 in Marianna, Florida on July 15, 2005. The Department’s Division of Consumer Services launched an investigation after receiving complaints from customers who said they were overcharged while evacuating from Hurricane Dennis.

The investigation found that the hotel had increased room rates by as much as 60 percent.

Florida was under a declared state of emergency at the time and the price gouging law prohibits businesses from charging unconscionable prices for essential goods and services, including shelter.

The company has paid the fine and provided the Department with the money for consumer refunds. The Department will be distributing the restitution checks to the consumers.