Legal News Line Dec. 8, 2014, 2:42pm

TAMPA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment was sued on Wednesday over allegations that it automatically renewed annual passes without consumers’ consent and didn’t follow the wording of its own contract when confronted with excessive charges.

A class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida details the allegations of lead plaintiff Jason Herman, a Florida resident who purchased a one-year adult EZPay to SeaWorld in Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Herman expected his initial payment of $35.40 on March 18, 2013 to be followed by 11 additional monthly charges of the same amount. However, payments continued to be charged to his credit card through Sept. 18, he said.

A SeaWorld customer service representative later told Herman the wording on the contract stated that any pass not paid for in less than 12 months would renew automatically on a month-to-month basis, the complaint says. The lawsuit contends that this wording was not included in confirming emails, receipts, tickets or passes, and that Herman’s request for a refund was declined.

The lawsuit claims that two separate telephone conversations with SeaWorld customer service representatives failed to provide access to a contract with that wording. He later found it online.

The suit further claims that despite SeaWorld’s allegedly hidden contract, the company was still not authorized to automatically renew the passes. In Herman’s example, his pass was purchased on March 18, 2013, and the 11th subsequent payment was charged to his credit card on Feb. 18 – fully paying off the cost of the annual pass in 11 months.

The lawsuit proposes a class of SeaWorld customers from Florida, Texas, Virginia and California who continued to be charged for their EZpay passes after fully paying for them in less than 12 months.

SeaWorld operates 11 theme parks in the United States and hosted 23.4 million guests in 2013 with more than $1.4 billion in revenues.

Attorney Paul R. Fowkes and Ryan C. Hasanbasic are representing the plaintiffs.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida case number 8:14-cv-03028

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