By Anthony Giorgianni
A lawsuit the Massachusetts attorney general recently filed against a Pittsfield vacation club and an affiliated company underscores why you should consider carefully before doing business with a discount travel company or vacation club.
A court has issued a preliminary injunction ordering the companies to stop using alleged deceptive marketing to sell travel memberships, Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts recently announced.
Coakley said the companies offered consumers free travel incentives and extreme discounts on travel, but instead charged them thousands of dollars for access to a proprietary software database that failed to provide the promised discounts.
“Vacation or travel scams offer free or discounted deals that often never materialize, and our office alleges these companies stole thousands of dollars from consumers through their deceptive memberships,” Coakley said in a statement.
The temporary injuction bars the companies from advertising free travel that in fact requires consumers to pay taxes and fees. Nor can they promote access to nonexistent wholesale travel discount or hold consumers to a three-day cancellation period when they have not yet received access to the companies’ website.
The state is seeking more than $108,000 in restitution to victims and $170,000 in civil penalties.
For more information about vacation fraud, read our report “Vacation Scams Can Cost You Any Time Of Year. Watch For The Warning Signs Of Travel Fraud.”
Over the years, we’ve seen many gripes about travel clubs in complaints filed with the the Better Business Bureau and such websites as Complaints.com and RipoffReport.
In 2012, the New Jersey attorney general sued a company and its owner for failing to provide promised deep discounts, vacation accommodations, and other travel services for which it charged one-time membership fees that ranged from $995 to $8,500, plus a $29.95 monthly charge.
Here are tips to consider if you’re contemplating joining a vacation club.
- Check out the company at the Better Business Bureau, and by using a web search with the company name along with such words as “complaints” and “reviews.”
- Ask about trip-cancellation and refund policies. Get the answers in writing.
- Request a detailed explanation of any vaguely worded descriptions, such as “5-star accommodations.”
- Be especially wary of unsolicited promotions that come by mail, e-mail, or fax offering deeply discounted travel packages.
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