Week Adjourned: 7.24.15 – Priceline, JP Morgan Chase, Foot Locker

PricelineTop Class Action Lawsuits

Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” …may be rebranded as “Name Your Own Settlement” if this goes to court. The internet-based hotel booking company is facing a proposed consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging it conceals known, mandatory resort fees from “Name Your Own Price” bidders, misleading thousands of customers about the actual price of their bookings. Something to do with hidden resort fees—ringing any bells folks?

Filed in in Connecticut federal court by lead plaintiff Adam Singer, the Priceline lawsuit contends that travelers who use Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” feature to bid on hotel rooms, end up paying undisclosed fees to Hilton and other hotels on top of what they offered.

“This conduct renders the ‘Name Your Own Price’ option illegal and deceptive,” the complaint states. “Due to defendant’s conduct, a consumer is not ‘naming his own price’ for a hotel stay at all.”

In the complaint, Singer states he used the “Name Your Own Price” option to find a hotel in Puerto Rico within his budget. Priceline matched him with a Hilton property and presented with a contract, which quoted his offer price plus $60.68 in taxes and fees, which he accepted.

However, the Priceline lawsuit contends that when Singer went to check out of the property, the hotel had added $66 in mandatory resort fees in addition to the price he had agreed to pay through Priceline, prior to his stay. The lawsuit alleges that Singer was not informed in advance of those fees as Priceline didn’t adequately inform him that any resort fees would be included in the total price for his accommodation.

“Priceline could easily have programmed its Name Your Own Price bidding system to account for resort fees which it knew full well would be charged and thus match consumers only with hotels truly willing to accept their bid amounts,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, it affirmatively chose to delete resort fees from ‘total’ ‘taxes and service fees,’ in order to make it appear to consumers that they were getting a better deal than they truly were.”

The lawsuit further claims that Hilton benefits from Priceline’s deception because it charge guests, after the fact, more than they would knowingly consent to pay.

“By the plain terms of the Priceline.com booking contract, Hilton had no right to charge mandatory resort fees on that booking,” the complaint states. “By recovering an additional, baseless fee in the form of the resort fee, defendants are able to reduce its advertised room rates by the amount of the resort fee without any negative impact when price-conscious consumers compare rates across hotels.”

Singer is seeking to represent a class of Priceline “Name Your Own Price” customers allegedly misled by the booking site’s silence on resort fees and a subclass of consumers who booked Hilton stays that cost more than expected for that reason.

The case is Singer v. The Priceline Group Inc. et al., case number 3:15-cv-1090, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. 

Top Settlements

They’re Baaaack...Here’s one for the record books, apparently, and likely in more ways than one.

A $388 million settlement has been agreed between JPMorgan Chase and a group of investors who alleged the bank misled them regarding the level of risk associated with certain investments. Specifically, the securities lawsuit refers to $10 billion worth of residential mortgage-backed securities (MBS) sold by JP Morgan Chase before the financial crisis of 2008. Remember those?

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of investors and two pension funds, namely Laborers Pension Trust Fund for Northern California and Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern California. In the lawsuit, they alleged the values of their investments were severely impacted by the losses incurred on the mortgage bonds during the financial crisis. (Whose investments weren’t impacted by MBS fraud?)

According to a statement issued by JP Morgan Chase, this settlement represents, on a percentage basis, “the largest recovery ever achieved in an MBS purchaser class action.” And that’s something they’re proud of?

Foot Locker Gets Clocked. Here’s a long-deserved bit of good news for Foot Locker employees. Final approval of a $7.1 million settlement has been granted, ending a long-running wage and hour class action against Foot Locker Inc. The lawsuit, brought by Foot Locker workers, alleged the retail shoe chain violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that Foot Locker workers were not compensated for maintenance work and time spent working before opening and after closing. Further, the lawsuit claimed that company employees were forced to do work off-the-clock or have their paid time cut in order to complete their tasks.

According to the allegations, Foot Locker directly tied the compensation of its store managers to its labor budget set by the corporate office, in order to enforce the compensation policy. If the managers exceeded the budget, they were punished, according to the original complaint filed in 2007 by named plaintiff Francisco Pereira.

The nationwide FLSA class includes all current and former Foot Locker employees who worked at least one hour from March 2007 to March 2010 in the US as a retail employee but not as an assistant store manager or higher. A separate Illinois class includes any retail employee excluding assistant store managers and above who worked in the state from October 2005 to May 2011.

The case is In Re: Foot Locker Inc. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wage and Hour Litigation, case number 2:11-md-02235, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Ok – That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!



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