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Division of Consumer Affairs
Press Release

Attorney General
Anne Milgram
Division of Consumer Affairs, Director
David Szuchman
   
For Immediate Release:
August 27, 2009
For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
 
Vacation Clubs LLC Added As a Defendant in Lawsuit

Newark - Vacation Clubs, LLC, which does business as La Bonne Vie Travel, has been added as a defendant to the lawsuit previously filed by the Office of the Attorney General and its Division of Consumer Affairs.

In May, the State filed suit in the Superior Court, Chancery Division in Morris County against Daryl T. Turner and his businesses, Dreamworks Vacation Club (also known as Dreamworks Vacations and Dreamworks), Five Points Travel Company and Bentley Travel. These businesses had previously operated out of locations in Parsippany, Sewell and Westampton. Defendants are now operating La Bonne Vie Travel at 600 Park Avenue, Suite 200, in Manalapan.

“We're continuing our investigation of Turner and his companies. This investigative effort has led us to La Bonne Vie Travel, which we've added as a defendant,” said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director.

To date, the Division has received complaints from approximately 300 consumers against the defendants either directly or from the Burlington County Consumer Affairs Office.

The defendants this month filed a response to the state's Complaint, in which they deny all the alleged violations.

The state's complaint alleges that the defendants failed to provide any services to consumers and misrepresented their relationship with hotel, airline and car rental companies through the unauthorized use of their corporate logos. The state also alleges that the defendants depicted specific resorts, regions and packages in mailings and sales presentations that, in actuality, were not available to consumers.

The investigation that led to the state's action began with the Burlington County Consumer Affairs Local Assistance (CALA) office, and was referred to the Division of Consumer Affairs for joint investigation. The state also alleges that the defendants also did not provide the free gifts that consumers were led to believe they would receive, including seven-day cruises, round-trip airline tickets for two, hotel stays, free dinners, car rentals and/or free gas coupons. When consumers contacted the “800” telephone number listed on the mailings to claim their gifts, they were informed that they had to attend a 90-minute sales presentation for vacation packages. Even if they attended the presentations, consumers were not provided with the gifts.

Consumers paid $1,200 to $8,000 upfront to purchase a vacation membership package, but were not provided with ability to book the airline, hotel or other travel arrangements at the price and quality represented by defendants prior to purchase.

The state's revised eight-count Complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations by:

  • Utilizing the terms “Bailout”, “Division of Revenue” and “Department of Funding” on mailings sent to consumers to falsely imply that the mailing originated from a state or federal government agency or department;
  • In mail solicitations and other advertising materials, utilizing without authorization, the trademarks of airlines, hotels, car rental companies and restaurants;
  • Forwarding mailings to consumers which indicated that consumers were entitled to complimentary gifts, when receipt of such gifts were conditioned upon attendance at a sales presentation for vacation packages;
  • During sales presentations, inducing consumers to purchase vacation packages by showing them brochures with resort areas and packages that were not available;
  • Advising consumers prior to purchase that they have the right to cancel the contract if they were not satisfied with the vacation package, and then refusing to permit the consumers to cancel the contract;
  • Charging consumers' credit cards for fees and services that were not authorized by the consumers; Submitting bills to collection agencies after consumers have cancelled the contract and formally disputed the charges;
  • Representing to consumers that they were members of the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”) in good standing, when such was not the case;

Failing to disclose to consumers prior to their purchase of a vacation package that they would be required to pay additional fees prior to utilizing the service; and

Requiring consumers to sign incomplete or blank sales contracts for vacation packages and then failing to provide consumers with full and accurate copies of such contracts.

The state's Complaint also alleges a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, based upon violations of the Rule Concerning the Cooling-Off Period For Sales, 16 C.F.R. §429.1, which provides that contracts entered through “door-to-door sales” include a statement providing consumers with the opportunity to cancel at any time prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of the transaction. The state alleges that the defendants conducted door-to-door sales, at least in January and February 2008 when they held presentations for vacation travel membership packages at the Marriott Trenton at Lafayette Yard.

As part of the initial filing, the state requested an asset freeze and preliminary injunctive relief. On June 9, 2009, the Court issued an Order enjoining defendants from:

  • violating the CFA and the Advertising Regulations;
  • destroying or transferring books and records;
  • failing to keep books and records;
  • utilizing trademarks, service marks or logos of airlines, hotels and restaurants without their authorization; and
  • utilizing government related names in their mailings.

At that time, the Court denied the state's request:

  • to enjoin the defendants from engaging in the advertisement and sale of vacation club membership packages:
  • to enjoin the defendants from disposing of assets, including all deposits or monies paid by consumers for vacation club membership packages; and
  • to freeze all assets of defendants, including bank accounts.

The state's complaint seeks injunctive and other relief, maximum civil penalties, consumer restitution and reimbursement of the state's legal fees and investigative costs.

Consumers can file complaints with the Division on its Web site at http://www.nj.gov/oag/ca/ocp/ocpform.htm or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within N.J.) or 973-504-6200.

Deputy Attorney General Gina M. Betts of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the state in this action.

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