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ORLANDO-Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth is suing Dallas-based Wyndham International Inc. and 12 of its Florida-based hotels for allegedly padding guests’ bills from February 2001 to December 2001 by tacking on a $2.50 to $3 per-room energy surcharge without disclosing that action in advance.

Wyndham is expected to settle the Florida suit the same way it is handling a California class action by providing guests with $15 coupon credits on their next stay at any Wyndham hotel, hotel officials previously said. The Florida suit was filed May 29 in Orange Circuit Court, Orlando.

Staffers at the three Orlando area Wyndham properties tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the extra charges were added because the hotel felt the energy fee would be a better marketing move than raising room rates which average $150 to $250 per night in season.

“In effect, they quoted one price to customers and charged them a higher price upon checking out,” the lawsuit alleges. “That is clearly deceptive and contrary to state law.”

But Wyndham disagrees. In a prepared statement from Darcie Brossart, Wyndham’s corporate communications director, the company says it “does not believe any of its acts were inappropriate, but agreed to settle the dispute merely to dispose of the litigation.”

Wyndham has set aside $1.5 million for total settlement costs.

“If Wyndham charges such a surcharge in the future, the surcharge will be disclosed at the time of reservation,” Brossart says.

The suit demands Wyndham repay the guests for the energy surcharges and asks the court to fine the hotel chain an undetermined dollar penalty.

Wyndham says such punishment is uncalled for.

“Florida residents, along with any other persons charged an energy surcharge will be made whole through this settlement agreement and further litigation in this matter, brought on by the Florida Attorney General’s office, only seeks to financially benefit the Florida Attorney General’s office and not the consumer,” the company’s statement says.

Wyndham has agreed to similar settlement terms with the Texas Attorney General’s office which also sued Wyndham.

The suit was triggered after Florida Department of State employees attended a conference at the Wyndham Harbor Island Hotel, Tampa, FL in July 2001.

The three metro Orlando hotels named in the suit are the 27-story, 1,013-room Wyndham Palace at Lake Buena Vista adjoining the Walt Disney World compound, Summerfield Suites Lake Buena Vista and Summerfield Suites Orlando.

The nine other hotels are Wyndham Harbor Island and Wyndham Westshore, both in Tampa; Wyndham Resort Miami Beach; Wyndham Miami Airport; Wyndham Coconut Grove; Summerfield Suites Miami; Wyndham Bonaventure Resort and Spa, Fort Lauderdale; and Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport; and Wyndham Miami Biscayne Bay now owned by Marriott International Inc.

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