U.S. District Court Judge Harold. L. Murphy signed the order granting class action certification Monday, allow-
ing multiple cities and counties suing more than a dozen online travel companies to band together.
Cities and counties are arguing that sites such as Hotels.com, Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com are charging customers full local taxes but not reimbursing local municipalities.
Attorney Bob Brinson, of the Rome law firm Brinson, Askew, Berry, Richardson, Siegler and Davis, said the Rome-based firm now represents all of the cities and counties in Georgia, with the exclusion of Atlanta and Columbus.
“We now represent all of the cities and counties who impose these taxes,” he said. “It’s a big move and a big event in this case.”
Brinson said a jury trial or a settlement could take place in a year.
“One of the most difficult things was getting class action certification, and we got over that hump,” he said.
Brinson said that the online travel companies are withholding tax dollars by purchasing rooms from hotels and motels at a reduced rate, selling those rooms for a large profit while charging taxes based on the larger amount and pocketing some of the tax money they made on the difference.
“We want them the pay the right amount,” he said.
The certification shows that the lawsuit has merit, Brinson said.
“This has been a long time coming but this was a very complicated order and we are proud of that,” Brinson said.
The lawsuit asks for taxes, penalties and interest into the multi-millions (of dollars), Brinson said.
If the plaintiff win, the money would be divided up among the municipalities based on the among of money each county or city would have lost due to nonpayment.