Matthew C. Barnes agrees to pay $15,000 fine, comply with state Consumer Protection Law.
The owner of an Erie-based limousine service has agreed to pay a fine and stop charging customers exorbitant, undisclosed fees, then charge them up to $500 each time they tried to get their money back.
In a settlement with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Matthew C. Barnes and two of his businesses agreed to pay $15,000 in civil penalties, customer restitution and legal fees, according to documents filed in Erie County Court on Aug. 14.
However, the $10,000 civil penalty portion of the fine will be suspended as long as Barnes and his businesses do not violate any of the other terms of the agreement, which include:
• Fully complying with the state’s Consumer Protection Law
• Providing customers with an itemized list of all charges
• Not making additional charges on a customer’s credit/debit card if they question any previous charges
• Providing contracts that are easy to read
“This matter is closed, it has been settled and with the understanding their has been no admission of any wrongdoing, because again we have not done anything wrong,” Barnes said in an email.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed a lawsuit in December charging that Barnes and two of his businesses, Barnes Professional Limousine Service and Walten Point Productions, violated Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
Shapiro said customers would be quoted one price for Barnes’ limousine services, then charged extra hourly fees for the rental vehicles to travel to and from their warehouse.
Customers were required to give the business a copy of their credit or debit card and pay in full before the date of service, Shapiro said.
If a customer contested the fees, they would be charged up to an additional $500.
Contact David Bruce at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.