HARTFORD, Conn. — A Stamford hotel tried to require longer than usual stays during Superstorm Sandy last October and will forfeit $1,800 to the state, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection said Thursday.
Commissioner William Rubenstein said the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act does not permit lodging businesses to change prices or lengths of stay based on weather forecasts.
He said La Quinta Inn & Suites said longer stays were necessary because of possible overbooking.
A spokeswoman for La Quinta did not immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment. Rubenstein said the hotel did not acknowledge violation of law and denies the allegations.
Rubenstein says the hotel did not charge guests for unused nights, but customers were forced to stay at higher-priced hotels or remain at home during the storm.
But with the agreement, operators of hotels and other lodging facilities in Connecticut were served notice by Rubenstein that consumer officials will consider any change to normal rates and regular terms a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act if made immediately before or during a weather emergency or other disaster when consumers may require shelter.
The Department of Consumer Protection said La Quinta should have taken steps to make its reservation system more transparent rather than increase the effective price of a hotel stay when consumers could not easily find alternatives due to the storm that pounded the shorelines of Northeastern states.
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.