OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that, as a result of his office’s multiyear investigation into online travel agency Rocketmiles, Washington consumers can now file claims to receive their share of a $300,000 recovery. From May 1, 2015 to December 5, 2016, the company charged hidden fees on thousands of transactions in Washington, even though they told consumers they charged the same rate as booking directly with a hotel or a competing travel agency.
This is the latest action under Ferguson’s Honest Fees Initiative. With this action, the Honest Fees Initiative has recovered nearly $8.3 million total.
Eligible consumers will receive $20 per transaction with Rocketmiles, the average amount of the hidden fees Rocketmiles charged from May 1, 2015 to December 5, 2016. Each individual can file a claim for up to two transactions, or $40. Consumers who paid these hidden fees are eligible to receive money from the recovery if:
- They lived in Washington and they booked any hotel with Rocketmiles, or
- They booked a hotel in Washington, regardless of where they lived.
To file a claim, visit www.WARocketmilesRefund.com to fill out a form. All claims must be submitted on or before September 29, 2020. For questions about the claims process, please visit www.WARocketmilesRefund.com for more information.
“Rocketmiles promised Washingtonians one price and then charged another,” Ferguson said. “Thanks to our multiyear investigation, Rocketmiles stopped its practice of hiding fees, and will pay $300,000 to Washingtonians who paid the dishonest fees. If you believe that a company has charged dishonest fees, please contact my office and help us eliminate hidden fees.”
Rocketmiles is an online travel agency that provides hotel booking services similar to Expedia, Priceline, and Hotels.com. Rocketmiles, unlike many of its competitors, also awards airline miles to consumers who book hotels through their website.
From May. 1, 2015 to Dec. 6, 2016, the company advertised online that consumers would “pay the same rates” booking a hotel with Rocketmiles as booking directly with a hotel or with a competing travel agency. The Attorney General’s investigation found that, contrary to its claims, Rocketmiles charged consumers an additional fee on its transactions, which could make some of its bookings ultimately more expensive than its competitors.
This additional fee was lumped in with general “Taxes and Fees,” an amount shown only toward the end of the booking process. Rocketmiles gave no additional information or itemization for these “Taxes and Fees,” even though the company charged an average of $20 more than the required taxes for a particular booking. The company did not disclose this extra fee to consumers, nor explain why the fee was charged. In fact, in an FAQ on its website, Rocketmiles claimed that it was impossible to provide itemizations for these tax amounts.
During that time period, the company added this fee to thousands of transactions in Washington even though it was advertising that consumers would pay the same hotel rates. These transactions included people booking hotels in Washington, as well as transactions from Washington consumers using the Rocketmiles website to book hotels.
The Attorney General’s Office began its three-year investigation into the company in 2016. As a result of the investigation, Rocketmiles must stop its misleading conduct and must disclose additional fees to consumers before a transaction is completed.
In order to avoid a lawsuit from Ferguson, Rocketmiles has paid the office $300,000, which includes full consumer restitution, claims administration costs, and attorney’s costs and fees. Rocketmiles is also legally barred from using deceptive advertising about hotel pricing, including fees.
Assistant Attorney General Daniel Allen is handling the case for the Attorney General’s Office.
Honest Fees Initiative
Ferguson is calling on Washingtonians to check their bills, and, if they believe they contain hidden fees, to file a complaint at the Attorney General’s website here. For more information on filing complaints, visit www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
So far, the Honest Fees Initiative has recovered nearly $8.3 million. Ferguson took the first major action as part of the initiative in December 2019, when global technology company CenturyLink paid $6.1 million to the State of Washington for adding charges to customer bills without accurately disclosing those fees, and failing to provide discounts that their sales agents had promised customers. Earlier in July, Frontier Communications Northwest paid $900,000 to Washington to resolve an Attorney General’s Office investigation that Frontier did not adequately disclose fees when advertising and selling its products, and misled subscribers about internet speeds it could provide. On July 22, Charter Communications paid more than $995,000 to Washington after failing to disclose a fee to customers who ordered the company’s services online.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
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