SEATTLE -- A Seattle-based Internet site that offers discount airfares purchased with frequent fliers’ unwanted mile credits has been sued by Attorney General Christine Gregoire for allegedly violating consumer protection laws.
In a lawsuit filed today in King County Superior Court, the Attorney General’s High Tech Unit accused First Interactive Productions, Inc., and its owner, Brent R. Allen, of violating various provisions of the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the state’s Sellers of Travel Act.
According to the complaint, Allen and his company, First Interactive Productions, Inc., markets discount airline tickets through the company’s website.
The complaint claims that Allen served as an intermediary between people who wanted to buy first-class or business-class airline tickets at a discount, and members of airline frequent-flyer programs with unwanted mile credits at their disposal. Allen arranged to have the frequent fliers purchase the premium tickets on the travelers’ behalf, and then oversaw the exchange of money and tickets. In the process, Allen kept a percentage of the payments for himself.
However, attorneys contend that Allen failed to deliver tickets to purchasers, failed to provide refunds, failed to respond to consumer complaints, failed to establish a trust account to hold customers’ money and failed to register with the state as a "seller of travel" as required under state law.
Further, the complaint contends, Allen failed to tell either those selling frequent flier miles or those buying discount tickets that the commercial sale of frequent flier miles violates most airlines’ frequent flier policies. If discovered, airlines can confiscate tickets and close the frequent flier accounts.
"More and more people are using the Internet to arrange their travels because of its convenience and the promise of a good deal," Gregoire said. "But the desire for cheap and comfortable airplane seats should not overcome a traveler’s caution about offers that look too good to be true."
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has received eight complaints about Allen’s ticket operation from consumers throughout the nation, and believes that there are other victims who have not yet contacted authorities. Allen charged thousands of dollars for his services and for airline tickets that were not delivered.
Attorneys are seeking to stop Allen's practices and are asking that he pay an unspecified amount of civil penalties and restitution.
(MS Word, 77K)