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ATTORNEY GENERAL THURBERT BAKER REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH FLORIDA TRAVEL COMPANY, GEORGIA CONSUMERS CAN CLAIM REFUNDS

PRESS ADVISORY

ATTORNEY GENERAL THURBERT BAKER REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH FLORIDA TRAVEL COMPANY, GEORGIA CONSUMERS CAN CLAIM REFUNDS

February 8, 2000

Attorney General Thurbert Baker announced today that he has entered into a consent judgement with Florida Travel Network (FTN) and Crown Plaza Resorts, L.C. d/b/a Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines. The action is also taken against James S. Herron, Sr., who is a part-owner of FTN, and Vance L. Vogel, who is a part-owner of FTN and the owner of Crown Plaza Resorts, L.C.

“When Georgia consumers have been ripped-off, I will do everything I can to put a stop to the activity and get them a refund,” Baker said.

A total of 13,013 vacation packages were sold to Georgia consumers by FTN. Packages typically cost $500 to $600 per person.

Today’s settlement allows Georgia consumers who purchased a vacation but have not yet taken it to receive a full refund. To receive a refund, consumers must file a complaint with the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) within the next 60 days. The deadline for filing a complaint is April 10, 2000.

Consumers who have already traveled and have filed a complaint with the OCA or the Better Business Bureau (BBB) can recover up to $200. Consumers who have already traveled and have not previously filed a complaint with OCA or BBB, and who believe that their trip was not represented to them accurately, may file a complaint with OCA within the next 30 days to be eligible to receive a refund of up to $200. The deadline for filing such a complaint is March 9, 2000.

OCA may be contacted at (404) 651-8600 or (800) 869-1123.

In addition to Baker, the Attorneys General of Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, and the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia, entered into consent judgements with FTN, Crown Plaza Resorts, Herron and Vogel today.

Baker offers the following tips for consumers purchasing vacation packages:

Buy vacation travel from a business you know. Deal with members of a professional association. If you're not familiar with a company, get their complete name, address and local telephone number. Be wary if the names of the seller and travel provider differ. You may be dealing with a telemarketer who has no further responsibility to you after the sale. Also, avoid buying from a firm that wants to send a courier for your payment or asks you to send your payment by overnight delivery. The business may be trying to avoid detection and charges of mail or wire fraud.

Verify arrangements before you pay. Get the details of your vacation in writing and a copy of the cancellation and refund policies. Get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers for the lodgings, airlines or cruise ships you'll be using. Call to verify your reservations. Use a credit card to make your purchase. If you don't get what you paid for, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company. However, don't give out your account number over the phone unless you know the company is reputable.

Learn the vocabulary. "You have been specifically selected to receive our SPECTACULAR LUXURY DREAM VACATION OFFER" doesn't mean you'll get a free vacation. It means you'll be offered an opportunity to pay for a trip that may fit your idea of luxury -- or not. "Subject to availability" means you may not be able to get the accommodations you want when you want them. "Blackout periods" are blocks of dates, usually around holidays or peak season, when no discount travel is available.

Don't be pressured into buying. A good offer today usually will be a good offer tomorrow. Legitimate businesses don't expect you to make snap decisions.