SEATTLE - April 1, 1999 - Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced a Renton-based travel club has agreed to pay the state close to a half million dollars for failing to deliver on promises that consumers who purchase club memberships would save thousands of dollars in airfare and other travel expenses.
"To take advantage of these so-called savings, you would have to constantly be on the go," said Gregoire. "Red flags should go up if your membership fees are more than what you would spend in a year for travel."
The lawsuit, filed last week in King County Superior Court, alleges that James Anthony Zahran of Bellevue and Clifton H. Perkins, now of Missouri, used deceptive practices in marketing travel services through their company Great Escapes Vacation Experience of the N.W.
In addition to making false promises, the suit alleges the defendants used "free prize" offers to lure consumers to attend sales presentations and failed to give refunds within the required cancellation period. Great Escapes memberships sold from $1,995 to $3,495.
Perkins and Zahran were also sued by the AG’s office in 1996 for similar violations and settled cases against Platinum Passports and Sunrise Resorts with Consent Decrees agreeing not to break Washington’s Consumer Protection laws in the future. According to Gregoire, their mode of operation is to close one business and start up another using the same deceptive practices.
The AG's office has received 117 complaints against Great Escapes in the last three years. The court action imposes a permanent injunction preventing Great Escapes from doing business in Washington and requires them to pay $188,661 in consumer restitution, $228,000 in civil penalties and just over $32,337 in attorney costs and fees.
The Attorney General's Office also took action this week against Vacation Center International, a travel club which operated primarily in the Vancouver and Portland area. That lawsuit alleges similar misrepresentations about club membership savings and failure to honor cancellation rights. The company, which did business as First Discount in Vancouver, went out of business in 1997.