A few (un) lucky customers in the Oklahoma City area are going to get refunds or free rooms at La Quinta Inn, according to a recent settlement with Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
According to a release from Edmondson's office, the free rooms and/or refunds come as part of a settlement with La Quinta (literally, "The Villa") because the company price-gouged customers during last December's ice storm.
Edmondson's crack Consumer Protection Unit uncovered that the company violated Oklahoma's Emergency Price Stabilization Act by raising rates artificially during a declared state of emergency.
"We began this investigation after receiving reports that prices had increased because of the ice storm," Edmondson said. "We discovered La Quinta overcharged consumers, on average, between $10 (and) $20 per night. We are still working to determine the exact number of consumers who were overcharged. We are dealing with six locations, with a total of 735 rooms, over a 10-day period."
After Edmondson and his folks figure out everyone involved, the free room certificates will be mailed starting in late July. La Quinta will send certificates to eligible consumers unless they contact the AG to decline.
"In almost every instance, the free night certificate will be of greater value to the consumer," Edmondson said. "Only those consumers wanting a refund of the overcharge will need to contact our office. Consumers wanting the certificate do not need to take any further action."
If that weren't enough, the La Quinta folks will also pay the state $50,000 for consumer protection enforcement activities.
Perhaps that will underscore Oklahoma's price gouging statute, which prohibits a price increase of more than 10 percent for most services and goods when a state of emergency is declared.
Speaking of price gouging, that reminds us of the time Chicken-Fried News' intern, Bucky, was gouged by an ice pick.