COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warns consumers to beware of travel scams during spring and summer vacation months.
In 2015, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received more than 400 travel-related complaints. Complaints ranged from billing disputes to services never delivered.
Commonly cited problems included offers for “free” travel or vacations that were not truly free, travel services that did not deliver promised benefits, and timeshare “resellers” who made false promises to help consumers sell their timeshares.
“We encourage consumers to check out companies before doing business with them,” DeWine said. “While there are many great travel services, there are a few that don’t follow the rules.”
In Ohio, if a seller advertises that a consumer has won a free vacation or other prize, the advertisement must state important exclusions and limitations of the offer. For example, if a consumer is required to listen to a sales presentation about travel club memberships in order to receive a free cruise, that requirement should be disclosed in the ad.
Additionally, if a sale takes place outside a seller’s normal place of business, such as at a hotel meeting room, the consumer likely is entitled to a three-day right to cancel the sale under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Under this law, sellers must notify consumers of their cancellation rights.
To avoid problems with travel services, consumers should:
- Research companies before doing business with them. Look for complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau. Search online for reviews using the company’s name and words like “reviews” or “complaints.”
- Get the details. Carefully review the terms and conditions of any agreement before signing it.
- Make sure verbal promises are put in writing. Otherwise, they’re not guaranteed.
- Consider paying with a credit card. You generally have stronger protections to dispute credit card charges if something goes wrong.
- Keep documentation. Maintain a copy of the contract or purchase agreement. If a problem arises, document the situation. For example, track the names of people you contact.
- Verify your reservations. If you book a trip through a third party, call the resort or hotel where you will be staying to confirm your reservation.
Questions to ask before signing up for a travel club membership include:
- Will you have to take several trips per year to get any savings?
- Do trips book up quickly, limiting your ability to schedule a vacation?
- Can you find similar or better deals yourself online?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- Are deposits refundable?
- Are there any non-refundable fees?
- Will you get a refund if a trip is canceled because of a natural disaster or bad weather?
- Will you have to pay an extra fee if you change your reservations or reschedule a trip?
- What’s the total cost of the membership?
- Will additional fees kick in later, after you sign the agreement?
Consumers who suspect a scam or who have problems they can’t resolve on their own should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The office provides a free informal dispute resolution process to help resolve complaints. It also takes enforcement actions against travel services that violate Ohio’s consumer protection laws.