WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and American Express defraud consumers about Starwood’s Preferred Guest customer loyalty program “by misrepresenting the Program’s most important features,” and by pushing co-branded Starwood / Amex credit cards through these misrepresentations, a class action claims in Federal Court. Starwood owns the Sheraton, Westin and other hotel brands.
The program at issue, like airlines’ frequent flyer programs, claims to offer savings to repeat customers. Lead plaintiff S. Adams claims Starwood’s misrepresentations have induced “more than 27 million people” to join.
“Starwood claims that there are no ‘blackout dates’ or ‘capacity controls’ to limit customers’ usage of Rewards Points earned in the Program, and, moreover, that Rewards Points can be used toward any available room in one of the Program’s participating hotels,” the complaint states.
“As wrongful as Starwood’s conduct has been, it does not stand alone in its fraud. Amex has echoed these same misstatements through the sale of its co-branded Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card.”
Starwood’s empire included more than 860 hotels in nearly 100 countries under nine brand names, including Sheraton, St. Regis, and Westin.
Plaintiff claims Amex pushes the cards online through “the same misrepresentations that Starwood makes … . Moreover, individuals who join the SPG Program through Amex are forced to pay an annual fee of at least $45 simply to receive the ‘benefits’ promised by both Starwood and Amex.”
The misrepresentations induce customers “to spend big money staying at expensive hotels to accumulate Rewards Points when they would otherwise purchase more affordable accommodations outside of the Starwood family,” the complaint states.
“The grim reality, however, is that all of this consumer spending is for naught, as Starwood does impose numerous restrictions on the use of Rewards Points, thus denying Program members their promised expected benefits.”
Plaintiffs demand punitive damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, deceptive business and other charges. They are represented by Craig Lanza with Balestriere Lanza.