Statement of Jodie Bernstein, Director
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection
August 3, 1999
Good morning. Operation Trip Trap -- the federal-state law enforcement and consumer education campaign we're announcing today -- will help alert consumers to telemarketing travel fraud and offer a few first-class tips.
We have with us Liz Compton of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Paul Rudin, vice president for legal and industry affairs at the American Society of Travel Agents; and Vicki Walker, a mother from Oregon whose daughter went on a trip to Mexico through a company that promised responsible supervision -- and fell terribly short.
The Department of Transportation estimates that over half of all travel is for vacations. Well, whether your vacation is all-leisure or a visit to friends or family, it should be exactly what you paid for.
Unfortunately, for many people that's not the case. Data from our Consumer Response Center places travel fraud in the top 10 categories of complaints. It affects thousands of people every year, and costs consumers millions of dollars. And while some of today's travel schemes depend on traditional, old fashioned high-pressure sales tactics promising so-called free vacations, others now are relying on the Internet to peddle travel scams.
Today, 47 cases are being filed against 25 companies. The FTC and 21 states are alleging that these companies have misled consumers about the vacation packages they were selling. They did this by overstating the amenities, telling travelers they had won trips when they hadn't, hiding extra charges in "all-inclusive" packages, or charging for products and services they never delivered. In short, they sold "dream" vacations that were nothing short of nightmares.
The FTC has filed cases against:
In addition, we're announcing settlements with four individuals associated with a separate case involving the Resort Sales Group. And the Department of Transportation has announced that they are prohibiting two charter companies from doing business as a result of previous state actions.
The Commission and the states are alleging that these companies set trip traps for hundreds of unwary consumers. The cases demonstrate our continuing commitment to helping consumers get what they pay for.
Now, I'd like to introduce Liz Compton, public information officer of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Florida is one of the states that is filing several Trip Trap cases.
Thank you Liz...
I'm pleased to present Paul Rudin, vice president for legal and industry affairs at the American Society of Travel Agents.
Thank you Paul. And now, I'd like you to meet Vicki Walker, who will tell us about the trip her daughter signed up to take... and the trap she fell into. Vicki ...
Thank you, Vicki. All the cases, including those filed by the state Attorneys General, are in your packets, as are the FTC Baedekers ... our consumer guides to getting the trip you paid for. How can you avoid getting caught? As Vicki's experience demonstrates, it's not easy as it sounds. Our travelers' advisories include:
Now, we'll all be glad to take your questions...