Case-by-case Enforcement Actions Against Travel Agent "Card Mills" Will Benefit Consumers, FTC Says in Denying ASTA's Petition for Rulemaking

For Your Information

The Federal Trade Commission has denied a petition from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) proposing the Commission initiate a rulemaking proceeding to prohibit the issuance of travel agent credentials to anyone who does not have a recent, documented record of selling travel service. In denying the petition, the Commission stated that individual law enforcement actions are better suited to addressing the deceptive practices identified by the petition.

ASTA's petition was filed with the FTC on July 1, 1997. The Commission’s letter denying the petition notes that the petition identifies a valid consumer protection concern: the existence of businesses, so-called "card mills," that market travel agent training programs and travel agent identification cards by misrepresenting the benefits available to consumers who purchase the programs and credentials. The Commission expressed concern that ASTA had failed to identify the extent of the harm to consumers allegedly caused by this activity. The Commission also expressed doubt that the remedy advanced by the petitioner would effectively address the harm to consumers identified by the petition without imposing economic costs, ultimately borne by consumers, that would outweigh the benefits of such a remedy. At the same time, the Commission noted that it has successfully taken enforcement action against one such travel agent "card mill," FTC v. World Class Travel Network, SA CV-97-162 AHS (C.D. Cal., February 28, 1997). The Commission believes that it can more efficiently and effectively protect the interests of consumers by aggressively directing law enforcement activities against individual businesses that falsely represent the extent of the benefits consumers can realize from purchasing travel agent business opportunities and travel agent identification cards.

The Commission vote to deny the petition for rulemaking was 5-0.

Copies of the petition and the Commission’s response are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

Media Contact:

(FTC Matter No. P974423)

Contact Information

Brenda Mack,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2182
Staff Contact:
Allen Hile,
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3122