Orbitz Inc., Expedia Inc. and a dozen other online travel companies were sued Thursday by San Diego's city attorney, who accused them of failing to turn over $30 million in taxes they collected on hotel rooms they booked.

City Atty. Michael Aguirre said the companies failed to pay the city "transient occupancy" taxes of $6 million they charged their customers for each of the last five years.

"They're charging the customer at the retail level and paying the city at wholesale level," Aguirre said. "The tax is levied based on occupancy. The fact that it goes through the medium of the Internet doesn't make any difference as to the appropriateness or scope of the tax."

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