FTC Files TSR Charges Against Travel Company

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The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against a travel company yesterday charging the firm with violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule in a campaign to market vacation packages.


Travel Express International, Norcross, GA, has used deceptive practices to market travel packages since 1998 through telemarketing and unsolicited faxes, the FTC alleges. Faxes were addressed to "clients and staff, agents, employee benefits and incentive departments" and stated that the "wholesale travel department" was releasing previously budgeted, price-reduced, corporate closeout discount vacation packages. The message led some employees to believe that their companies endorsed the offers, the FTC said.


According to the charges, the company offered package trips to Fort Lauderdale, FL, and locations in the Caribbean. Consumers were asked to place a deposit -- typically $199 to $229 -- equal to half the total cost of the package, whereupon they would receive further information in the mail.


Upon receiving the mailing, consumers learned for the first time that they must attend presentations that market time shares, the FTC said. Consumers who went on the trips were denied access to hotel vouchers until they attended the presentations, or else were invited to "complimentary breakfasts" that turned out to be time-share presentations, according to the charges.


Company owner Robert E. Lewis II, who is named in the complaint along with co-owner Alan D. Humphries, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.


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