Ritz-Carlton receipt
According to disgruntled customers, the Ritz-Carlton in uptown Charlotte tacked on a service fee during CIAA Week in late February, 2015. In many cases, customers were not told about the additional charge.

The Ritz-Carlton has agreed to pay a refund to people who paid a 15 percent service charge for food and drinks in the hotel’s lounge during the 2015 CIAA basketball tournament.

Also under the agreement, the hotel will fund college scholarships and clearly notify customers about any future special service fees.

The agreement was announced Monday by the North Carolina attorney general’s office.

According to disgruntled customers, the uptown Charlotte hotel tacked on the service fee during CIAA Week in late February. In many cases, customers were not told about the additional charge.

The surcharge applied to those who visited the hotel’s Lobby Lounge. Following complaints from consumers, the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division launched an investigation.

The hotel has said it added the surcharge to cover the additional costs of staffing during CIAA week. Critics, however, have noted that the hotel had not levied similar charges during other busy sporting events. Some accused the hotel of racism.

Under the agreement, the Ritz-Carlton will:

• Pay refunds to consumers who paid the service charge.
• Notify customers if a special service charge will be applied to their bill by disclosing the fee in writing in the menu and having servers remind customers about the charge.
• Donate $75,000 to the CIAA Scholarship Fund.
• Pay $5,000 to the NC Department of Justice for consumer protection efforts.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said the agreement would settle his office’s investigation.

“Being upfront with consumers about fees is always the best way to do business,” Cooper said.

How to claim refunds

Eligible consumers have 90 days to apply to get money back. Consumers who believe they are eligible for a refund should:

• File a consumer complaint with the Consumer Protection Division online at ncdoj.gov, call 1-877-5-NO- SCAM toll-free within North Carolina to request a complaint form in the mail, or send a letter requesting a refund to:

Consumer Protection
Attorney General’s Office
Mail Service Center 9001
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001

Include a copy of your bill, credit card or bank statement, or some other record that indicates the amount of service charge paid.

The attorney general’s office will forward all requests for refunds to the Ritz. Consumers who have previously filed a complaint with the attorney general about Ritz service charges do not need to file a new complaint.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.