Lehigh Valley

City motel owners must pay price-gouging restitution

Dinesh and Anil Panwala accused of charging excessive prices during Sandy

HARRISBURG, Pa. -  Allentown motel owners accused of price-gouging when Hurricane Sandy rolled through the city in October 2012 must pay more than $10,000 in restitution, plus $1,500 in penalties to the state.

The state Bureau of Consumer Protection charged that Dinesh and Anil Panwala, doing business as Akshay LLC, charged excessive prices at the Econolodge Motel in south Allentown, in violation of the Pennsylvania Price Gouging Act for motel rooms.

It happened during the declared state of disaster emergency related to Sandy, which continued from Oct. 26, 2012 until Jan. 15, 2013.

The couple, who live in Allentown, own the motel at 2115 Downyflake Lane, which was an Econolodge at the time. Since then, the name has changed to Rodeway Inn.

The settlement announced Thursday by Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane resolves allegations of price gouging during that declared state of emergency.

During the investigation, the Bureau of Consumer Protection uncovered 120 instances of alleged price gouging by the motel owners.

They rented rooms at rates in excess of 20 percent of the average price of rooms rented seven days prior to the emergency declaration, according to the state.

As part of the settlement, the motel and its owners will refrain from violating Pennsylvania's Consumer Protection Law and the Price Gouging Act in the future.

They also will pay total restitution of $10,042 to eligible consumers, as well as civil penalties totaling $1,500 to the state.

The legal action was filed in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas by Deputy Attorney General Saverio P. Mirarchi.

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