Travel Bahamas Tours, Inc., of Deerfield Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; and company president Richard A. Raskin, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Dallas, Texas, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misrepresented that the travel packages they were selling were sponsored by certain hotels, and that they offered a 30-day unconditional refund. According to the FTC, the travel promotion was not sponsored or endorsed by any hotels, and until the FTC brought charges against the defendants as part of "Operation Trip-Up," the defendants routinely failed to honor consumers' requests for refunds. The settlement of these charges prohibits Raskin and his company from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) or the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and prohibits any misrepresentations in connection with the sale of any travel-related products or services. Raskin will be required to obtain a performance bond in the amount of $250,000 before resuming any telemarketing activities relating to the sale of travel or of magazines -- a business in which Raskin was previously engaged.
"Operation Trip-Up" was a joint federal/state law enforcement and consumer education campaign, announced in February 1997, to stop the sources of a substantial number of deceptive travel offers, and to warn consumers about the many different types of travel scams they need to be aware of in order to avoid them.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges against Travel Bahamas Tours and Raskin, the defendants called themselves a full-service travel agency, and used telemarketing and direct mail to market travel certificates, purportedly for extremely discounted "World Class Florida/Caribbean Vacation Packages" that supposedly were sponsored by select hotels, resorts, and airlines. The cost of defendants’ travel package was $276 to $498, according to the FTC complaint, and the defendants offered a 30-day no-obligation refund policy. In fact, the FTC charged, the package was not sponsored, endorsed, or promoted by nationally-recognized hotels, and the defendants, in numerous instances, refused to provide promised refunds.
Travel Bahamas Tours is no longer in business.
The settlement prohibits the defendants from violating any provisions of the TSR or the TILA, and prohibits any false representations in connection with the sale or promotion of travel- related products or services and the sale of magazines. Defendant Raskin will now be required to first obtain a performance bond in the amount of $250,000 before resuming any such activities. The settlement prohibits the defendants from selling their customer lists, and requires them to monitor their employees, telemarketers, and agents to ensure compliance with the settlement.
The FTC filed the settlement, which is subject to approval by the court, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, in Fort Lauderdale. The Commission vote to file the proposed settlement was 4-0. The judge approved the settlement on June 25.
NOTE: The stipulated final judgment and order for permanent injunction is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. The judgment has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the settlement, the news release announcing "Operation Trip-Up," and a number of consumer education materials about travel scams 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; 202-326-3128; TTY 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.
(Civil Action No. CIV-Ferguson 97-6181)
(FTC File No. X970029)
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