|NEWARK – Approximately 250 consumers who paid for but did not receive all or part of the all-inclusive travel packages they purchased from Crown Travel Service Inc. of Bloomfield are eligible for restitution, under terms of a Final Consent Judgment that resolves the action brought by the Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
Crown Travel Service Inc., also known as “Club ABC Tours,” and an affiliated company ABC Destinations LLC, abruptly ceased operations on October 1, 2012. When this occurred, approximately 52 customers who were part of the “Super Tuscany” or “Unbelievable Italy” tours were stranded in Italy. Further, approximately 200 other customers paid thousands of dollars for all or a part of travel packages which were to occur after October 1, 2012.
The State’s action, which was filed in August 2013, alleged that Crown Travel Service, ABC Destinations and their principals, brothers Robert S. Paris and Thomas H. Paris, violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Advertising Regulations through their continued advertisement, offering for sale and sale of travel packages, when Club ABC Tours was insolvent at least as early as December 2008, and ABC Destinations was insolvent as early as June 2012. Nevertheless, the defendants accepted customer payments at least as late as September 24, 2012, for travel packages that were to occur as late as October 2013.
The Final Consent Judgment provides for a payment of $525,000, which will be applied as partial restitution for eligible consumers. Further, a civil penalty of $119,000 assessed against Robert Paris and Thomas Paris will be suspended and vacated after two years if they satisfy the terms of the Final Consent Judgment.
“Vacation planning turned into a nightmare for many consumers who paid large amounts of money for travel packages that they never received,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “This long nightmare has been brought to an end by this important settlement, which returns money back to consumers.”
Under the terms of the Final Consent Judgment, Robert Paris and Thomas Paris are prohibited from: accepting payment for a travel package, and then failing to provide some or all of the money paid for merchandise; accepting payment for a travel package, then failing to remit funds to the vendors for the accommodations; and advertising a ‘”cancel-for-any reason” travel protection program, if such is not the case. The settlement also provides for the dissolution of Crown Travel Service and ABC Destinations within nine months. For a period of two years, Robert Paris and Thomas Paris are to notify the Division if they open a business in New Jersey and/or advertise, offer for sale and/or sell merchandise to consumers in New Jersey.
“Consumers buy expensive, all-inclusive travel packages in order to get some peace of mind as they plan a vacation,” said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Instead of rest and relaxation, many consumers who dealt with Crown Travel had to deal with the stress of losing their money with no vacation to show for it."
Within the next few weeks, the Division will be sending notifications, by email or regular mail, to the consumers who filed complaints against Crown Travel Services and ABC Destinations and who either did not receive all of their paid for accommodations (e.g., “Super Tuscany” tour), or received no part of their travel packages which were to occur after the closure of the businesses. The consumers will be requested to return a questionnaire form verifying the amount of their claimed monetary losses.
Investigators Murat Botas and Oscar Mejia of the Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection conducted this investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, represented the State in this action.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
Check out the Division of Consumer Affairs online calendar of upcoming Consumer Outreach events.