Hotels.com refunds illegal New York City hotel occupancy tax after months of refusing

By | October 17, 2021

On October 15, 2021, I received this email from Hotels.com:

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog know that I‘ve been demanding this since June. Even emailing the president of the company didn’t help. After that failed, I filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s office. That, too, was fruitless. They forwarded my letter to Hotels.com; Hotels.com sent back the same kind of weasely, intentionally deceptive response that they had been sending me directly; and rather than recognizing that and pushing back, the AG’s office (in particular, Danielle Deodath, who apparently does not know how to do her job well) closed my complaint and recommended that I hire a private attorney. That’s bullshit, and I told them so:

Hotels.com’s response is absurd and irrational as is your handling of this complaint.

I accused hotels.com of charging me NYC occupancy tax when it was supposed to be waived during the summer.

In response, hotels.com contacted the HOTEL, which told hotels.com that they didn’t charge me occupancy tax because my reservation was paid through hotels.com. Which is exactly true. I never accused the hotel of charging me occupancy tax. I accused HOTELS.COM of charging me occupancy tax. I also accused HOTELS.COM of defrauding me and many other consumers by hiding fees like occupancy tax inside a generic line item charge on their bills which they do not itemize and refuse to itemize when they are asked to do so. Their response — claiming that nothing wrong happened to me because the hotel didn’t charge me anything — is an absurd, nonsensical deflection.

This is not a matter for a private attorney, because the amount I was harmed is orders of magnitude less than it would cost for me to retain a private attorney. This is a matter of hotels.com defrauding many many people, each of them for a small amount of money, such that it’s financially infeasible for any individual one of those people to take any action in response. This is exactly the type of situation when the attorney general’s office should be getting involved.

You could have demanded from hotels.com that they answer these questions: What were the itemized fees included in the generic “taxes and fees” line on my reservation? Did those itemized fees include the NYC hotel occupancy tax? If so, then why wasn’t it refunded when the city announced that the tax would be waived for the summer? How many other hotels.com customers were charged that tax for the summer by hotels.com when they should not have been? Was it refunded to any of them?

Does the NY AG’s office act to protect consumers when a company is defrauding them on a large scale, or not?

Ms. Deodath did not respond.

Anyway, I don’t know what finally prompted Hotels.com to figure out that it would probably be a good idea for them to stop doing illegal shit in one of the biggest hotel markets in the country. I’m glad they finally did the right thing, but it’s too little, too late as far as I’m concerned: my wife and I will no longer be using Hotels.com.

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