New Hampshire v. Priceline.com, Inc.Annotate this Case
The State of New Hampshire appealed a superior court order following a ten-day bench trial granting judgment to the defendants, the direct or indirect subsidiaries of Priceline.com, Inc., Orbitz, LLC, Expedia, Inc., and Travelocity.com, LLP, alleging that: (1) they violated the New Hampshire Meals and Rooms Tax Law by failing to remit meals and rooms taxes on transactions with hotel consumers and by bundling money collected from consumers as taxes with other amounts; and (2) the bundling of taxes with other fees also violated the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Online travel companies (OTCs) use either the “agency” or the “merchant” model to conduct business. Under the agency model, the consumer pays the hotel directly for the room; the hotel then pays the OTC a commission for the booking and remits to the State the meals and rooms tax on the full amount received from the consumer. Under the merchant model, the consumer pays the OTC for the room; the OTC collects payment from the consumer using the consumer’s credit card. The OTC, therefore, is the merchant of record. The hotel then has a certain number of days in which to send an invoice to the OTC for the net rate of the hotel room and the meals and rooms tax on that rate. The parties disputed whether the OTCs were subject to the meals and rooms tax law. The trial court ruled that OTCs were not subject to the law because they are not “operators” of hotels. The State challenged the trial court's conclusion that OTCs were not subject to the law as "operators." The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the State failed to show the trial court erred in its ruling as to the CPA.