Also details enforcement actions over COVID-19 price gouging
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced $105,600 in settlements Thursday with four hotels and motels due to price gouging during and in the aftermath of the 2020 wildfires.
In addition, at least 100 Oregon families who were overcharged for their hotel rooms will be reimbursed.
“More than 40,000 Oregonians had to evacuate their homes during the fires that spread so rapidly through our state," Rosenblum said. "Without much warning, many families had to seek shelter in hotels and motels. Unfortunately, some hotels upped their prices significantly, and took advantage of this horrible situation.”
The attorney general asked Gov. Kate Brown to declare an abnormal disruption of the market statewide on Sept. 9, 2020, after hearing concerns about steep prices for lodging for the many Oregonians displaced by the wildfires.
While such a declaration is in place, Oregon’s price gouging statute is activated and businesses may not sell essential consumer goods or services, including lodging, at unconscionably excessive prices. Typically, a price is unconscionably excessive if it is an increase of 15% or more above the price the business charged immediately before the declaration.
In March 2020, the Attorney General had asked the governor to declare an abnormal disruption to the marketplace because of price gouging associated with Covid-19. Some businesses were charging exorbitant prices for essential products like toilet paper and cleaning disinfectant.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 560 complaints have been received by DOJ’s Price Gouging Hotline. These have all been looked into and have led to 36 cease-and-desist letters to businesses that allegedly engaged in price gouging, along with thousands of dollars in restitution, as well as donation of thousands of essential products like face masks, hospital gowns, and hand sanitizer to various organizations.
Background on the recent complaints against hotels alleged to have price gouged after the wildfires:
Capital Inn & Suites in Salem:
Capital Inn typically charged between $60 and $80 per night for one room. DOJ’s investigation found instances of the Capital Inn charging $135 a night after the Governor’s declaration. One room went for $146.25. Capital Inn customers have already received $1,342 in refunds. In addition, under the settlement the hotel must reimburse any consumers who paid more than $92 per night including taxes and fees. Consumers who feel they were overcharged should contact the Oregon DOJ’s Consumer Complaint Hotline. Finally, the Capital Inn will pay the state $38,000 for its conduct.
Le Chateau Inn in Florence:
Le Chateau Inn typically charged between $89 and $125 per night for one room. DOJ’s investigation found at least 18 rooms for which the hotel raised the price more than 15 percent after the governor’s declaration. As a result, 22 Oregonians will receive $2,188.87 in restitution. In addition, the Le Chateau Inn will pay the state $21,600.
Rodeway Inn Willamette River in Corvallis:
Rodeway Inn typically charged between $80 and $100 per night for one room. DOJ’s investigation identified 15 rooms for which the hotel raised the price more than 15 percent, charging as much $150 for a room with a single queen bed. DOJ required the Rodeway Inn to issue 23 refunds totaling $918.15. In addition, the Rodeway Inn will pay the state $15,000.
Days Inn by Wyndham in Roseburg:
DOJ’s investigation found that prior to the fires, the highest room rate the Days Inn charged for one night was $150. After the Governor’s declaration, 12 different rooms rented for over $200 per night, and 6 rooms rented for over $300 per night. Altogether, DOJ’s investigation found 31 different instances of a room rate increased by over 15 percent. The Days Inn will pay $4,860.07 to 31 to those Oregonians. In addition, the Days Inn will pay the state $31,000.
DOJ’s investigations into other allegations of price gouging related to the wildfires are ongoing.
“These fires were tragic, and our state really suffered. Through this settlement, my hope is that we are able to provide at least a little comfort to these families who have already been through so much,” Rosenblum said. “We also are trying our best to make it clear that Oregon businesses shouldn’t try to take advantage of people during difficult times. Our laws protect against this sort of conduct, and my office intends to enforce them.”
If you have information, or think you may have fallen victim, to a fraud or scam contact the Oregon Department of Justice online at www.oregonconsumer.gov, or call our Consumer Complaint Hotline at 877-877-9392.