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Attorney General Herring files suit against Henrico County hotel for "bait and switch" violations
~ Suit alleges violations of Virginia Consumer Protection Act at Richmond Magnuson Grand Hotel ~
Richmond--Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that his office has filed a lawsuit against GRM Management LLC, a Virginia limited liability company which operates the Richmond Magnuson Grand Hotel and Convention Center in Henrico County, for alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and Virginia's "bait and switch" statute.
"Virginia consumers have every right to expect that agreements will be honored when it comes time for delivery of goods and services," said Attorney General Herring. "I will not tolerate businesses that misrepresent themselves or mislead customers and my office is absolutely committed to protecting Virginia consumers from such practices."
The lawsuit alleges that, in multiple instances, Richmond Magnuson offered and confirmed room rates for one price, but upon check-in informed customers that their rate would be higher or their requested room was unavailable. For example, at least 29 customers who attended a dance festival at the hotel in August 2013 were charged $87 per night plus tax, despite receiving, in many instances, written confirmation for a price of $73, resulting in an overcharge of nearly $50 for each person who stayed at the Richmond Magnuson for the duration of the festival.
The Complaint filed in Henrico County Circuit Court alleges that Richmond Magnuson violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and Virginia's "bait and switch" statute in the following manner:
1. by misrepresenting that goods or services have certain quantities, characteristics, ingredients, uses, or benefits, in violation of § 59.1-200(A)(5);
2. by advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised, or with intent not to sell at the price or upon the terms advertised, in violation of § 59.1-200(A)(8);
3. by using any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with a consumer transaction, in violation of § 59.1-200(A)(14); and
4. by advertising or offering for sale to the public any merchandise, goods, commodity, service or thing with intent not to sell, or with intent not to sell at the price or upon the terms advertised or offered, in violation of § 18.2-217(a).
The lawsuit asks the court to enjoin Richmond Magnuson from violating the consumer protection statutes mentioned and to award restitution to any affected consumers. The suit also seeks an award of civil penalties of up to $2,500 per willful violation, and reimbursement of the Commonwealth's costs, including reasonable investigative expenses and attorney's fees.
If a consumer encounters a "bait and switch" style situation like this, they are encouraged to keep any relevant documentation and report the incident to the state's consumer protection hotline at (800) 552-9963, or file a complaint online at http://oag.state.va.us. The Attorney General first learned of consumer concerns relating to GRM Management through complaints filed with his office and the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia.
The Commonwealth is represented in this matter by Senior Assistant Attorney General David B. Irvin and Public Service Fellow Stephen John Sovinsky.