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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Lawyer
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Vrbo was recently sold to Expedia. Their old business model

Customer Question

Vrbo was recently sold to Expedia. Their old business model was to charge home owners an annual fee (in my case $2,000 a year) to advertise then home on their website.
I am very displeased with VRBO. After using VRBO for several years and being very satisfied. But this year this has changed drastically. After charging me $2,000 for my listing they have decided, without noticeto me, that they are going to charge my customers from 4% to 10% for booking a vacation at my home. They tell me that they notified me by email about the change. I cannot find any previous emails from them informing me about their decision to charge my customers a fee over and above my listing advertised price. I hope there is grounds for a class action suit against VRBO. My prime time rentals were fortunately mostly booked before they made this change. But since the change my inquiries for rentals have all but stopped. My understanding was that I paid for advertising thru them and nothing was said or stated about the extra charge. In addition, the CEO was quoted in several articles last year, post acquisition, that this new fee would be added in the SECOND HALF of 2016 and instead it was implemented, with no notice to me, on February 18.
Is there a basis for a class action lawsuit?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

You have grounds to sue the company on your own if they changed the terms of your agreement without notice and, in doing so, caused you to lose money. The way a class action is born is that a person files a Complaint on his own, alleging the circumstances that give rise to his cause of action. Then he moves to certify a class, and the judge decides if enough people are victims of this company that it's appropriate to appoint one person to represent all of them rather than having people file their own lawsuits. If the judge declines to certify the class, your individual suit against the company would continue (unless for some reason you decided to dismiss it).

The requirements for certifying a class are set forth in Georgia Code, Section 9-11-23. The initial hurdle is that you must be able to establish that:

(1) The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;

(2) There are questions of law or fact common to the class;

(3) Your claims or defenses are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and

(4) You will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Because the crux of your claim seems to be that you were not made aware of the additional booking fee, one of the things you'll have to establish is that other homeowners also were not notified before the company started applying that fee to their rentals OR that no change to the terms is permitted at all. That means the starting point when seeking to establish a class action is to talk to other people who have experienced the same problem. Lawyers typically establish websites asking people who've had issues with a company to reach out to them. But it will be necessary to find out if other people were affected by this change, and if so, how many, before it's possible to evaluate your chances of being able to certify a class.

Representative members of the class wind up representing dozens or even hundreds of people. That means you'd need a lawyer to assist you, because you're not allowed to represent other people in a lawsuit. A good place to find someone with experience in class actions is www.martindale.com.

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