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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 1997
Washington Joins Fraud-Enforcement Sweep of Travel Related Scams


Seattle, March 13, 1997 - Washington's Attorney General's Office today filed lawsuits against two local travel companies and a publicly traded Florida company as part of an FTC and multi-state sweep called Operation Trip-Up.

The lawsuits were filed against Vacation Time Worldwide of Bothell, BudgeTravel of Pasco and Vacation Break USA of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Since May 1996, Washington has filed 10 actions against travel sellers.

"Most consumers have a dream of the ideal vacation," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "When someone offers to make those dreams come true, many people just open their checkbooks."

Operation Trip-Up was organized in response to the growing number of consumer complaints involving travel companies, Gregoire said.

In 1996, 1,196 written complaints were received by the AG's office about travel sellers. That was nearly double the number of complaints reported the previous year. Travel now ranks fifth on the top ten list of complaints.

Mailers sent nationally by Vacation Break lead consumers to believe "they were a guaranteed recipient," of a free trip. Consumers who responded, however, were told it would cost between $199 to $468 to register for the "free" trip. In addition, Vacation Break did not disclose that consumers would be charged additional "port fees."

Consumers who took the "free" trip also were required to attend a high pressure timeshare sales presentation. The AG's office received more than 58 written complaints against the company.

The Attorney General's Office also filed suit against a Washington travel club, Vacation Time Worldwide. Vacation Time Worldwide club members were "guaranteed lowest price" travel if they purchased a membership costing $2995 to $4995, plus annual dues of up to $200. Some 208 consumers complained that Vacation Time failed to make requested travel arrangements, failed to obtain the lowest price, or failed to honor their cancellation policy.

The complaint filed against BudgeTravel resulted from a joint investigation by the Department of Licensing and the Attorney General's Office. Customers complained after BudgeTravel failed to deliver tickets or vacation packages which they had purchased.

"The BudgeTravel case is a solid example of the benefits of the Sellers of Travel Act," said Gregoire. "This law enables two government agencies to join forces to efficiently and effectively protect consumers and the interests of the legitimate travel industry."

Gregoire recommends consumers check out local travel agencies and avoid companies who use free prize offers as bait to attend high pressure sales presentations.

Consumers who want to file a complaint against a travel company or who would like tips on protecting their travel dollars should contact the Attorney General's Office by calling 1-800-551-4636


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