March 11, 2008
Cruise lines to refund fuel surcharges
Cruise passengers nationwide are to receive refunds totaling $21 million. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his Economic Crimes Division has reached a resolution with two cruise lines over the imposition of a fuel supplement on cruise passengers. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Celebrity Cruises have agreed to refund $21 million to consumers nationwide who were charged the fuel surcharge after they had booked their cruise.
The Attorney General also advised Florida consumers to carefully check their hotel, cruise and airline bills for any surcharges not properly disclosed and to report any problems to the Attorney General's Office.
"Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises are the first cruise lines to step forward and take actions to resolve this matter in their customers' best interest," said Attorney General McCollum. "This resolution will serve as a model for the rest of the cruise line industry and I expect the other companies to take this example and follow suit."
The agreements were reached after the Economic Crimes Division received several hundred complaints from around the country about the entire cruise line industry, alleging cruise lines were retroactively charging a fuel supplement charge after cruises had been booked and deposits had been made by consumers.
In addition to investigating the manner in which the charges were disclosed, the Attorney General's Office also looked into whether or not the charges violated an agreement from 1997. Today's agreements amend the 1997 agreement to allow for the imposition of the fuel supplement as long as the charges are disclosed in a clear and conspicuous manner in advertising and bookings.
Under the agreements signed today, all consumers who were retroactively charged a fuel supplement will be refunded the full cost of the surcharge. Consumers who have not yet sailed will receive their refund as an on-board credit. In the future, the cruise lines must also ensure clear and conspicuous disclosure of any fuel supplement charges at the time the reservations are made, as well as in their advertisements.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises will contact consumers eligible for refunds and must report to the Attorney General's Office on the status of refunds within 30 days. Consumers who believe they have been improperly charged surcharges may file complaints with the Attorney General's Office by calling the fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or by visiting the Attorney General's website at http://myfloridalegal.com.
A copy of the agreement with Royal Caribbean is available here.
A copy of the agreement with Celebrity is available here.