COLUMBUS – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a lawsuit against GVN Michigan Inc., which does business as Global Vacation Network, and Global Connections Inc. for misleading consumers in order to sell travel memberships.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks an end to deceptive practices, restitution for consumers, and civil penalties.
“We do not tolerate blatant violations of Ohio’s consumer protection laws, and this operation has routinely used advertisements that deceive and confuse consumers,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Telling consumers they have won an award or prize when they really haven’t is deceptive, and we are taking action to hold these businesses accountable.”
According to the lawsuit, GVN solicits Ohio consumers to attend sales presentations where it markets and sells Global Connections travel membership packages. GVN has a principal place of business in Florida, and Global Connections has a principal place of business in Kansas, but sales presentations have occurred in Dublin, Ohio, and Independence, Ohio.
In 2010, GVN entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (out-of-court settlement) with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office where it agreed to stop unfair and deceptive advertisements.
Despite that settlement, the Attorney General’s Office alleges that the deceptive ads have continued.
One ad tells consumers that they have qualified for an award of two round-trip airline tickets (seemingly from “US Airlines”). Another says they have been selected to receive an eight-day cruise and round-trip airfare. Another appears to be a pick-up notification for a package that contains a new tablet.
The majority of ads do not identify the name of the business making the offer, and they do not disclose that in order to be eligible to receive the award, consumers must attend a 90-minute sales presentation, where they would be induced to buy travel memberships. The ads also fail to disclose that receipt of the free airfare or cruise is conditioned upon the consumer paying fees.
Dozens of consumers have filed complaints with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office about these kinds of advertisements.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General accuses GVN Michigan and Global Connections of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, including failing to disclose exclusions and limitations in ads, violating the Prize Rule, making misrepresentations, and failing to comply with an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.
Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to research businesses and advertisements carefully. Consumers can check with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau to look for complaints, and they can perform an Internet search to find additional information.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
ILLINOIS AG MADIGAN FILES LAWSUIT OVER VACATION TRAVEL CLUB SCAM
Suit Alleges Global Discovery Vacation Program Ripped Off Consumers of Nearly $80,000
CHICAGO — Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against a Kansas-based company and two of its Chicago area sales agents that scammed Illinois residents out of at least $80,000 for membership in a bogus travel club that failed to deliver on its promises of vacation destinations across the globe.
Madigan filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against Global Connections Inc., of Overland Park, Ks., and Madmol Inc., based in Crystal Lake, Ill., and GVN Illinois, based in Tinley Park.
The lawsuit alleges the companies operate a bogus travel club called Global Discovery Vacation Program. Madigan alleges the club scams as much as $8,000 in upfront payments and $398 annual fees from consumers for membership in the program that in reality provides no discounts and instead charges consumers even more money to book vacations.
The Global Discovery Vacation Program is sold through direct mail solicitations and telemarketing calls that claim recipients have won a free prize or free roundtrip airfare. Many consumers reported receiving a fake check or letter made out to them from legitimate-sounding airlines, including “US Airlines” or “American Airways.” When consumers contacted the company to claim their free prize and airfare, they learned they first had to attend a sales presentation for the Global Discovery Vacation Program. The presentation billed the program as an exclusive club, promising consumers access to hundreds of properties across the country and around the world for a discount.
“This operation has all the makings of a scam,” Madigan said. “Any time you are offered a ‘free’ prize or a supposed award, that’s a red flag. If you receive solicitations like this, your first and only move should be to throw it in the trash.”
The suit alleges consumers who signed up for the travel club had access to few of the promised vacation properties, if any at all. The few consumers who were able to book a vacation found substandard conditions of the vacation properties, including reports of hotels infested with cockroaches and broken appliances.
The lawsuit seeks to ban the companies from operating in Illinois, provide full restitution to affected consumers and assess penalties based on violations of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
Assistant Attorneys General Janice Parker and Kimberly Slider are handling the case for Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau.