The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Pam Bondi, the Attorney General of Florida, recently announced a settlement that will ban a company from selling vacation packages. The FTC and the Florida attorney general’s office charged the defendants with tricking consumers into believing they had won a vacation package as a prize, and then failing to provide the package as promised.
The complaint was filed in May 2011 by the FTC and Bondi’s office in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. According to the complaint, the defendants advertised a vacation package worth thousands of dollars as a prize to consumers who called a toll-free number and answered a trivia question. The recipients of the advertisements were mostly Spanish-speaking citizens, as the defendants’ primarily advertised on Spanish-language radio and television stations. The advertisement announced a trivia question and told listeners that the “first 30 people” to dial the number and answer the trivia question correctly would receive a free trip. According to the complaint, callers were uniformly told that they had won, and that if they paid up to $400 in “taxes” or “fees” they would receive their prize. The FTC and the Florida attorney general’s office alleged that callers did not receive the vacation packages as promised and charged the company with violating the FTC Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, respectively.
In addition to banning the defendants from the marketing and sale of vacation packages, the settlement orders permanently prohibit the defendants from making any further misrepresentations, or from collecting any more fees from participants. The orders also impose a judgment of more than $14 million, which will be suspended on the satisfaction of numerous terms and conditions designed to ensure that the defendants will be stripped of all of their assets of value.
The settlements were brought as part of the FTC’s Hispanic Law Enforcement Initiative. “By working closely with the Federal Trade Commission, our two agencies have stopped this business from deceiving consumers,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said. “This is an excellent example of state and federal agencies working together to protect consumers.”
The defendants are VGC Corporation of America, also doing business as All Dream(s) Vacations, All Dreams Travel, Five Star(s) Vacations, 5 Star(s) Vacations, Total Tours, and Travel & Tours Corp.; All Dream Vacations Corp., also doing business as All Dreams Vacations; Violeta Gonzalez, also known as Violeta Rojas; Cesar A. Gonzalez; and Samir Jose Saer Rodriguez, also known as Samir Saer.