United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
N. Chatigny United States District Judge
Chapman, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated,
brings this action against Priceline Group, Inc.
(“Priceline”), alleging that Priceline has
breached its “Best Price Guaranteed” promise with
regard to purchases of tickets for travel on Spirit Airlines.
The amended complaint alleges that Priceline's practices
violate Connecticut statutory and common law. Priceline has
moved to dismiss the amended complaint and strike the class
allegations from count one, which is brought under the
Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”).
For reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is denied and
the motion to strike is granted.
amended complaint alleges that Priceline has
“prominently represented and continues to represent a
‘Best Price Guaranteed' promise for airfare
purchased through its website” that guarantees to
consumers the “lowest price on everything [they]
book.” (ECF No. 11) ¶ 2. With regard to travel
on Spirit Airlines, however, Priceline secretly adds its own
markup.Id. ¶¶ 3, 6. As a result,
“Spirit Airlines flights are always cheaper when
purchased through Spirit Airlines' website than when
purchased through Priceline.com.” Id. ¶
allegations are premised on a “Best Price
Guaranteed” representation contained in the
“Priceline Terms and Conditions” located on the
Priceline website, Priceline.com. Clicking on the words
"Best Price Guaranteed" results in the appearance
of a statement in bold letters that Priceline
“guarantee[s] the lowest price on everything you
book.” Id. ¶ 33. The website goes on to
state: “Find a lower price, we'll refund you 100%
of the difference. Book an Express Deal, we'll refund you
200% of the difference. Guaranteed. The Priceline.com Best
Price Guarantee applies to every Air, Hotel, Rental Car,
Cruise and Vacation Package reservation sold on
priceline.com!” Id. ¶ 34.
alleges that reasonable consumers who take advantage of
Priceline's best price guarantee “do not think they
are merely getting the right to invoke a price-matching
scheme.” Id. ¶ 38. Rather, they
“understand the Guarantee and corresponding price-match
policy . . . to indicate that Priceline actually is selling
the fares at the lowest available price - or, at the very
least, that Priceline is not knowingly marking up those
prices.” Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff alleges that
Priceline was aware of this understanding, id.
¶ 37, but failed to disclaim its “Best Price
Guaranteed” policy with respect to Spirit Airlines even
though it knew Spirit Airlines flights were available for a
lower fare on Spirit Airlines' website, id.
amended complaint alleges that plaintiff purchased Spirit
Airlines tickets through Priceline in April 2014, April 2015,
and July 2015. Though he “believed he was truly
getting the best price for the air travel on Spirit Airlines,
” id. ¶ 43, “[t]hose same tickets .
. . were at that very moment offered for sale for
significantly less on Spirit.com.” Id. ¶
45. Plaintiff alleges that he was “aware” of the
“Best Price Guaranteed” promise and “would
not have purchased his tickets on Priceline.com had he known
they had been marked up over the price for which they were
being sold at the same time on Spirit Airlines'
website.” Id. ¶ 47.
seeks to bring this action on behalf of a class of
“[a]ll natural persons in the United States of America
who, within the applicable statute of limitations preceding
the filing of this action to the date of class certification,
purchased a ticket for a flight on Spirit Airlines, Inc.
through Priceline.” Id. ¶ 14. The amended
complaint contains five causes of action, all on behalf of
the class: violation of CUTPA, breach of contract, breach of
the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of
express warranty and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff seeks
restitution of fares paid to Priceline in excess of the
lowest price available at the time of purchase, disgorgement
of profits, actual and punitive damages, prejudgment
interest, costs and fees.
Motion to Dismiss
Airline Deregulation Act Preemption
argues that the CUTPA, breach of duty of good faith and fair
dealing and unjust enrichment claims in counts one, three,
and five of the complaint are preempted by the Airline
Deregulation Act (“ADA”). Plaintiff responds that
Priceline is not the type of entity the ADA was intended to
protect and, even if it were, the claims do not fall within
the scope of the ADA's preemption provision. I conclude
that even if Priceline may rely on the ADA, it has not shown
a sufficient connection between its Best Price Guaranteed
promise and the conduct of Spirit Airlines or any other air
carrier to support preemption of the state law claims.
the Supremacy Clause, U.S. Const. Art. VI, cl. 2,
“state law that conflicts with federal law is
‘without effect.'” Cipollone v. Liggett
Grp., Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516 (1992) (quoting
Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 746 (1981)).
“In light of principles of federalism, there is . . . a
presumption against preemption, ” In re Jetblue
Airways Corp. Privacy Litig., 379 F.Supp.2d 299, 312
(E.D.N.Y. 2005), and the party arguing in favor of preemption
bears a heavy burden. See Abdu-Brisson v. Delta Airlines,
Inc., 128 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 1997). “In deciding
whether a federal law pre-empts a state statute, ” the
court must “ascertain Congress' intent in enacting
the federal statute at issue.” Morales v. Trans
World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 419 (1992) (quoting
Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 724,
ADA's preemption provision reads as follows: “[A]
State, political subdivision of a State, or political
authority of two or more States may not enact or enforce a
law, regulation, or other provision having the force and
effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air
carrier.” 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(4)(A). The term
“related to” means “having a connection
with or reference to.” Morales, 504 U.S. at
384. Though this construction suggests that the statute has a
broad reach, state law is not preempted unless it has
“a significant impact” on airlines' behavior
with respect to prices, routes, or services. Id. at
speaking, plaintiff's state law claims do involve prices
at which Spirit Airlines tickets are sold. But this does not,
by itself, support ADA preemption. Priceline must show that
enforcing the state laws on which plaintiff relies would have
a significant effect on the “price, route or service
of an air carrier.” 49 U.S.C. §
41713(b)(1) (emphasis added); see also Goodspeed Airport,
LLC v. E. Haddam Inland Wetlands & Watercourses
Comm'n, 681 F.Supp.2d 182, 209 (D. Conn. 2010),
aff'd, 634 F.3d 206 (2d Cir. 2011).
alleges that “Priceline adds its own
markup” on tickets for travel on Spirit Airlines. Am.
Compl. (ECF No. 11) ¶ 3 (emphasis added). If the
disputed markup violates state law, as plaintiff claims, it
is not apparent that enforcing the law against Priceline
would cause Spirit Airlines to change its pricing practices.
Thus, the claims are not preempted.
Failure to State a Claim
argues that the complaint must be dismissed because it fails
to state a ...