BOSTON, MA (July 24, 2014) — Illinois-based Travel Services, Inc. and its principals have agreed to a $50,000 judgment that permanently prohibits them from selling and marketing vacation club memberships in Massachusetts, settling claims that they sold over-priced memberships by using high-pressure sales tactics and misrepresenting the value and benefit of memberships to consumers, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced yesterday.
The consent judgment, filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, settles allegations that Travel Services – formerly known as Funseekers Vacations, Inc. and operating in Massachusetts as “Outrigger Vacation Club” – along with President Christy Spensberger and Vice President William Bailey, facilitated unfair and highly deceptive sales operations at Plymouth-based Only Way 2 Go Travel and Methuen-based Fantasia Travel.
“Through this scheme, the defendants used bait and switch marketing tactics to trick consumers into paying thousands of dollars for vacation club memberships worth a fraction of that price,” AG Coakley said. “We are pleased that this judgment will permanently prohibit this company from conducting its deceptive vacation club business in Massachusetts.”
The lawsuit, filed in July 2010 and amended in 2011 to include Travel Services, Spensberger and Bailey, alleges that multiple defendants conspired to lure consumers to sales presentations using deceptive mail and telephone solicitations and then subject them to high pressure sales pitches containing myriad misrepresentations and omissions designed to induce consumers to purchase Outrigger Vacation Club memberships serviced by Travel Services.
The complaint alleges that consumers entered into the membership contracts based upon false promises that they would receive better-than-Internet wholesale prices on vacation packages, cruises, accommodations and other travel services. Instead, consumers allegedly left sales presentation venues having spent thousands of dollars on vacation club memberships that were essentially worthless when compared with travel arrangements they could make online, or by calling airlines, hotels and resorts directly.
Since 2009, the AG’s Office has received more than 300 consumer complaints regarding the vacation club sales scheme described in the complaint. On average, consumers who purchased Outrigger Vacation Club memberships paid more than $4,800 each.
The judgment requires TSI to pay $50,000 in restitution and permanently prohibits Travel Services, Bailey and Spensberger from marketing or selling travel services and vacation club memberships in Massachusetts. Cases against the remaining defendants are ongoing.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Gillian Feiner and Sara Cable of Attorney General Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division with assistance from paralegal Krista Roche, also of the Consumer Protection Division, and with assistance from the Civil Investigations Division.
PRESS RELEASE SOURCE: Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General