The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection in Georgia has been receiving several complaints about vacation schemes.
A typical such scenario involves someone getting a letter or postcard that promises free round-trip airline tickets in exchange for attending a sales presentation about travel club membership. The presentation, usually takes place at a local hotel. Attendees then find out they have to pay money in order to receive the free airline tickets.
Consumers claim that these travel companies use high-pressure sales tactics and deceptive means to get them to buy travel memberships that generally cost several thousand dollars, according to the Office of Consumer Protection. The company promises huge travel discounts as a benefit of membership. The purchaser then finds out the discounts are non-existent or equivalent to the rates consumers can get themselves on well-known online travel sites. When consumers try to cancel their memberships and get a refund, their requests are usually refused.
The Office of Consumer Protection offers these prevention tips:
Be wary of incredible deals or free tickets, prizes or memberships. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If someone is promised a "free" prize, the company cannot legally charge the person any fees in order to collect that prize, according to the office.
Check out a travel company's reputation and whether there have been complaints filed against it with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. Confirm that the company is registered with the American Society of Travel Agents (www.asta.org).
Ask for detailed informationa bout cost of vacation, fees and membership cost before agreeing to anything or providing credit card information. Ask about your right to cancel and get the cancellation policy in writing.
Research online travel websites that provide discounted rates for airfare, hotels and rental cars. Do these sites offer better deals without paying for a membership? Do the math to see if they are more cost effective.
If consumers got into the sales agreement at a place that is not the company's regular place of business, such as a hotel room, the three-day right of cancellation may apply, according to the Office of Consumer Protection. Under the three-day right of cancellation, the buyer is legally permitted to cancel the contract within 72 hours for a full refund. The company is required by law to tell the buyer at the time of sale - both verbally and in writing - that he or she has the right to cancel the contract within 72 hours.
Use a credit card to buy the trip or travel membership. Later, if consumers believe they were involved in a ploy, the charge can be disputed with the credit card company.
Anyone who has been a victim of a vacation scam, can call the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection at 404.651.8600 or 1.800.869.1123 (toll-free in Georgia and outside of the metro Atlanta calling area).
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