SEATTLE - February 4, 1999 - Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire and six other states filed suit today against two Florida travel companies, their owners, and “lifestyles of the rich and famous” pitchman Robin Leach, alleging they mislead unsuspecting consumers into believing they had won or were entitled to the vacation of their dreams.
“Champagne wishes and caviar dreams turned into bitter regrets and vacation nightmares for consumers responding to this come-on,” said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. “There was nothing free or fabulous in this offer.”
The suit alleges the defendants used Leach's “celebrity endorsement” to convince consumers they had won or were entitled to a luxury Florida vacation and cruise to the Bahamas. Consumers soon found they had won nothing except an opportunity to pay as much as $1,000 for a seven-day Florida vacation and a bonus Bahamas' cruise which was actually a one-day ferry ride and a game of “Las Vegas style” bingo.
“Mr. Leach used his public persona to deceive consumers,” said Gregoire. “Like any other celebrity who sells his or her name and image, Mr. Leach must be held accountable for making false promises.”
Other defendants named in the suit are Ramada Plaza Resorts and National Travel
Services (NTS) of Fort Lauderdale, and their owners James H. Verillo and Daniel Lambert.
Washington consumers received travel certificates featuring Leach's picture and the message: “Robin Leach says Pack Your Bags!” As a condition of the trip, the certificates failed to disclose that consumers would be required to attend lengthy timeshare presentations. Consumers who purchased the trip also received a video hosted by Leach in which he repeatedly described the vacation as “world class” and “an experience you'll never forget.”
More than 25 Washington consumers filed complaints about the companies' sales practices. Consumers in other states who did take the offered trips reported they were subjected to “hard-sell” timeshare presentations of up to five hours. They also found their “world-class” accommodations to be substandard.
Washington's suit was filed in King County Superior Court and alleges violations of several state consumer protection laws. Other states filing suit include Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
To file a complaint with the AG's Office call 1-800-551-4636 or, for the hearing impaired, call 1-800-833-6384.