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2 Mar, 2013

Lead Lawyers Appointed to Sue US Online Travel Sites, Hotel Chains for Price-Fixing


SEATTLE, March 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, a consumer-protection law firm, today announced that it has been named interim lead counsel in a price-fixing class-action lawsuit brought against several online travel sites including Expedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE); Travelocity; Booking.com, a subsidiary of Priceline.com (NASDAQ: PCLN), as well as many of the nation’s largest hotel operators including Hilton Hotel; Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, a subsidiary of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (NYSE: HOT), and Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE: MAR).

The suit — originally filed Aug. 20, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and later consolidated in the Northern District of Texas — seeks to represent a class of hotel-room purchasers nationally, claiming that the online hotel retailers conspired with major hotel defendants to craft a secret agreement designed to thwart competition on hotel room prices, especially from smaller price-cutting online retailers.

U.S. District Court Judge Jane J. Boyle today announced that Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is best suited to lead the case after a highly competitive process in which nearly two dozen firms sought the lead-counsel position. As lead counsel, HBSS managing partner Steve W. Berman will lead the case, managing the strategy and marshaling the resources of the law firms participating.

“We are very pleased that the court chose us to represent consumers in this case,” Berman said. “I believe our extensive work in researching these sorts of anti-competitive agreements between online retailers and hotel chains lead the judge to make his pick over many other firms who sought the role by simply mirroring the hard work of others. “We thank the more than 20 law firms that supported our motion for lead counsel,” Berman added.

The suit claims that as new models emerged in which third-party companies buy up unsold blocks of rooms and resell them to price-cutting online retailers, hotels — fearing competition — conspired to crush the practice by creating agreements that mandated minimum hotel room prices for online retailers. The suit also contends that hotels that did not agree to the pricing scheme were frozen out of the online marketplace.

Hagens Berman is continuing to investigate these allegations. Individuals with additional information, or consumers who purchased a hotel room from an online travel company, can contact Hagens Berman by calling (206) 623-7292 or by emailing hotelantitrust@hbsslaw.com.

A complete list of the defendant online retailers and hotels is available at www.hbsslaw.com/HotelAntitrust.