Travel club must refund $900,000 Baltimore company deceptive, state says

November 09, 1993|By Gary Cohn | Gary Cohn,Staff Writer

The state Attorney General's office said yesterday that it has ordered a Baltimore vacation club promoter to refund at least $900,000 to customers who purchased vacation club memberships based on false promises.

The order was issued against International Travel Network Inc., of South Edgewood Road in Baltimore, and its operators, John Eric Ginn and Bradley S. Callahan. It directs the company to refund money to customers subjected to sales practices that violated Maryland's Consumer Protection Act from 1989 to 1992.

About 3,000 people are eligible for refunds, which will range from $300 to $5,995.

Kenneth Mann, a vice president of International Travel Network (ITN), referred all questions yesterday to William Morstein, ITN's lawyer. Mr. Morstein declined comment.

William D. Gruhn, an assistant attorney general, said the order requiring ITN to create the restitution fund was part of a continuing effort to crack down on unscrupulous operators in the vacation travel field.

"Unfortunately, there have been several operations like this that have sprung up," Mr. Gruhn said.

ITN was found to have engaged in deceptive practices following several days of hearings before an administrative law judge.

According to the Attorney General's office, ITN got people in the door by telling them they had been awarded free vacations. When the consumers went to ITN's offices to pick up their prizes, they were required to listen to sales presentations of up to three hours before being given their prizes.

The prizes, the Attorney General's office said, were usually certificates that required consumers to send in money to take the vacation.

ITN representatives also "made misrepresentations to consumers about the vacation club and then used high-pressure sales techniques to get consumers to sign contracts," state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said in a statement.

Among other things, the Attorney General's office said, ITN's representatives falsely told consumers that its members could travel anywhere at any time; that members could get up to 40 percent discounts on activities, food and entertainment; and that members would save money on airfare and rental cars.

In addition, ITN's sales representatives falsely told consumers that it would put them up in luxurious, internationally rated four-star and five-star accommodations, the Attorney General's office said. In fact, it said, "ITN used accommodations of poor quality."

The Attorney General's office said that ITN customers identified through the company's records would receive notices to determine whether they are entitled to refunds.

Consumers with questions can call the Consumer Protection Division at (410) 528-8662.

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