Three Rivers-based Buckeye Tree Lodge and Sequoia Village Inn have filed a class action lawsuit accusing Expedia Inc., an online travel company, of a bait-and-switch scam that lures customers away from certain properties and redirects the bookings to lodgings that pay the reservation giant a booking fee. The 23-page complaint, dated August 17, 2016, was filed by the Patterson Law Group of San Diego.
There have been several news reports that Expedia Inc., the parent company of Hotels.com, Orbitz, and Trivago, is investigating whether its own regulations were followed correctly after being accused of the reservation fraud.
According to the complaint: “Expedia’s deceit is brazen. Expedia posts fake phone numbers for Buckeye Tree Lodge and other class member hotels to divert callers to Expedia member hotels. Believing Expedia’s representation that there is no availability at a class member hotel, consumers take their business to Expedia member hotels. And the bait and switch is complete.”
Buckeye and its sister property are not participating members of the Expedia booking program. An attorney familiar with the case said that there are several local properties that belong to the Expedia program but they were not complicit and had no knowledge of the practice.
Customers searching for Three Rivers lodging often viewed listings and ads for Buckeye Tree Lodge and Sequoia Village Inn. When the traveler clicks on these website listing they find themselves redirected to another webpage owned by Expedia or the screen displays a blank page.
The lawsuit also states that ads placed on social media sites promise to link directly to non-member properties, including Buckeye Tree Lodge, but then redirect online users to member properties. Charges brought against Expedia also include trademark violations, unfair competition, and business code violations.
Dennis and Stacie Villavicencio, owners of Buckeye Tree and Sequoia Village Inn, cannot comment on the lawsuit while the case is in process. The attorneys in the case were not available for comment prior to press deadline.