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Consumer Advisory Re Free Travel Offers And Discount Travel Clubs

CONTACT: Janet Murnane, Assistant Attorney Gernal, (802) 656-3183

June23, 2014

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office is warning about a promotional flyer being mailed to many consumers in northeast Vermont offering free airline tickets and hotel accommodations. This type of advertisement – saying you will be receiving something for “free” when the advertisement is really intended to lure the consumer into a sales promotion – violates the Vermont Consumer Protection Rule on Bait Advertising. The same type of “free travel” advertising campaign happened in late 2013- early 2014 in northern Vermont. Consumers who contacted the number on the promotional flyer were required to attend a seminar in order to obtain the voucher for free airfare. The seminars are led by transient, out-of-state, high pressure sales teams in area hotel conference rooms. The sales agents persuade consumers that they can save money on discount airfare and accommodations by purchasing a membership in a discount travel club, or similar type of enterprise. The membership is expensive and consumers later learn that it does not provide what was promised.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office, with the cooperation of Chittenden County hotels, was able to shut down these operations last year. Now, Vermonters are receiving promotional flyers telling them the seminars are being held in Plattsburgh, NY.

If you are considering purchasing a travel club membership, or membership in another sales promotion, the Attorney General’s Office recommends that you take the following steps to ensure that the business entity conducting the sales transaction is compliant with the Vermont or New York State laws:

  • Confirm that the corporate business is registered with the State’s Secretary of State’s Office. In-state businesses must provide contact information and a registered agent. In Vermont, out-of-state businesses must obtain a Certificate of Authority in order to transact business in another state (which serves to provide contact information and a registered agent). You need to be able to contact this business if something goes wrong.
  • Confirm whether the promotional material provided (by phone or mail) in advance of the sales transaction is compliant with State Consumer Protection Rules. In Vermont, call our Consumer Assistance Program to check on promotional information.
  • Confirm that the contract being presented at the time of the sales transaction complies with the State’s “right to cancel” law.
  • Research the company’s history with the State’s Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau (but be aware that these companies change names frequently).
  • Look for consumer complaints about the company or the type of membership plan on the Internet.
  • Don’t sign a contract for an expensive travel club or other membership program if you haven’t taken these steps.
    For further information in Vermont, contact the Consumer Assistance Program at the Vermont Attorney General’s Office at consumer@uvm.edu or by phone at 1-800-649-2424 or 1-802-656-3183.

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