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Montgomery, Baltimore counties settle suit against Orbitz

Montgomery and Baltimore counties have reached a settlement with an online hotel-room booking company over allegedly unpaid occupancy taxes.

Both counties have agreed to dismiss Orbitz and its affiliated websites from the long-running lawsuits, according to filings in U.S. District Court. The counties have previously reached settlements with Priceline and Expedia and their affiliated travel websites.

The settlement leaves Travelocity as the remaining online hotel-room booking company in lawsuits filed by the counties as well as the city of Baltimore.

J. Stephen Simms of Simms Showers LLP in Baltimore, who is representing all the defendants, confirmed the Orbitz settlements with the counties but said the settlement amounts were confidential.

Baltimore County also would not disclose the amount of its settlements, which The Daily Record will seek through a Public Information Act request. A lawyer in Montgomery County’s Office of the County Attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Other jurisdictions have also sued the e-booking companies and settled.

Worcester County, which includes Ocean City, settled a similar suit for $150,000 in 2010. In Baltimore city, Priceline.com and its affiliates made a four-year deal in September 2010 to pay $390,000. In June 2011, Expedia Inc., which had a larger volume of bookings in the city, agreed to pay $1,675,000 to cover occupancy tax liability from July 2007 through June 2014.

The city of Baltimore was the first Maryland jurisdiction to join a national trend when it filed suit in December 2008 against the hotel booking companies, alleging they must pay room taxes on the rates charged to customers, not on the lower rates they actually pay to the hotels for the rooms.

The defendant companies have said they are providing a booking service, not operating the hotel.

Baltimore and Montgomery counties filed suit in May 2010 and December 2010, respectively.