GetARoom.com faces a proposed class action lawsuit in which two plaintiffs allege the hotel room booking company has deceptively misled consumers into believing they’re booking rooms directly with a hotel.
Filed by two Los Angeles County residents, the lawsuit charges that although defendant Consumer Club, Inc. acts as a middleman between customers and hotels, the company “provides little in the way of service beyond defrauding consumers” and charging excessively high and undisclosed fees while leaving little recourse for those looking to cancel reservations.
The case alleges that, for one, the company’s representatives identify themselves as the “reservations department” and answer affirmatively when asked by consumers if the number they’ve dialed is that of a hotel. According to the case, it’s not until a customer receives confirmation of a room reservation that they learn for the first time that they actually booked through Consumer Club, and not directly through a hotel. What’s more, consumers who book through GetARoom.com often come to find out that they’ve been charged “massive, undisclosed” booking fees, the lawsuit alleges, and have to generally pay more for their rooms than the amount they’d been quoted prior to booking.
Further still, the complaint claims that GetARoom.com’s cancellation policy is one that plainly does not allow for cancellations. According to the suit, consumers who call to cancel a reservation because they were charged more than the agreed-upon price are told that the company has no cancellation policy and that reservations cannot be canceled at all. Relatedly, the case claims the defendant’s record of even answering consumer calls is shoddy.
From there, the plaintiffs allege that Consumer Club’s claim that its cancellation policy is “coextensive” with that of a particular hotel is false. Consumers who attempt to cancel a reservation with a hotel are informed that such would be possible had they booked with the hotel in the first place, the lawsuit says, but they must instead contact GetARoom.com to try to both cancel a room and secure a refund.
The lawsuit claims that GetARoom.com representatives do not inform consumers of the no-cancellation policy during phone calls or through the company’s online booking portal. On its website, the link to Consumer Club’s terms and conditions simply links back to the reservation confirmation page, the case says. According to the suit, those who actually access the defendant’s terms and conditions are presented with a wall of text that works hard to hide the truth about dealing with GetARoom.com. From the lawsuit:
“The only way to access the alleged ‘terms and conditions’ is to navigate back to the home page, scroll to the very bottom of the page, and click ‘Terms.’ The terms and conditions consist of fourteen, single-spaced pages and 10,000 words, are inaccessible from the reservation page, and—beyond a single reference in paragraph 35 thereto—never disclose that Defendant plans to subject customers to substantial and previously undisclosed Tax Recovery and Service Fees that are a pure surcharge intended to allow Defendant to profit from its deceptive business practices.”
The lawsuit argues that consumers thusly never consent to the defendant’s “unconscionable and unenforceable” terms and conditions prior to doing business with the company. Additionally, the case says, the ”oppressively one-sided” terms and conditions allow GetARoom.com to file a lawsuit against customers who request a chargeback from their payment company and charge customers in order to recover any legal fees paid out to “enforce” the terms and conditions. Those who make reservations with GetARoom.com over the phone are not apprised of the company’s terms and conditions at all, the complaint claims.
At additional issue in the lawsuit is the defendant’s “Travel Agency Agreement,” which the plaintiffs say not only looks to limit GetARoom.com’s legal liability but automatically enrolls consumers in a “VIP Program” that goes undisclosed in confirmation emails. For the “VIP Program,” GetARoom.com charges customers a yearly $10 fee lumped into the “tax and recovery charges & service fees” paid for a reservation as a means to “conceal the existence of the yearly fee from consumers,” the case says.
According to the suit, GetARoom.com is the subject of thousands of consumer complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and on similar customer review sites. The case points to the reportedly voluminous number of complaints against GetARoom.com as proof that the company is aware that its practices deceive and defraud consumers. As the lawsuit tells it, leaving a public review may be the only way for a customer to have their grievance actually acknowledged by the defendant:
“Only once consumers have made their grievances public does Defendant respond on the website and claim a representative ‘will review your case and reach out to you’ because ‘[o]ur goal with your Trustpilot review is to promptly work for your satisfaction resulting in your improving the star rating.’ In other words, Defendant addresses its customers’ concerns only if those concerns threaten to impede Defendant’s ability to continue to perpetuate its deceptive practices.”
On a broader scale, the complaint claims GetARoom.com’s conduct is not unlike that of other third-party hotel booking sites that allegedly resort to advertising in such a way as to mislead consumers without disclosing full prices, cancellation policies and that it’s a middleman website, and not the hotel, that’s handling the booking.
More from the complaint:
“Not only do third-party booking websites mislead consumers into believing they have booked with the actual hotel, they do not adequately disclose that they will be charged the full price of the reservation up front and that the booking is entirely nonrefundable.
Third-party booking websites engage in the same deceptive practices when receiving calls from mislead [sic] consumers. Indeed, as the article describes, an individual who worked in the hotel business for 25 years, and who taught a hospitality course at Cornell University, called a number she believed to be for Marriott but, even after asking to confirm she was speaking with a Marriott representative, she was falsely informed that she was when, in fact, she had contacted a call center for a third-party booking company.”