Travel club to pay restitution, fine

  • MIKE BENBOW / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, November 1, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

By MIKE BENBOW

Herald Writer

A Lynnwood travel club that sparked a torrent of consumer complaints has agreed to pay restitution to consumers and $40,000 in fines, the state attorney general announced Wednesday.

Vacation Marketing Systems Inc. had prompted more than 150 complaints from customers who claimed they were victims of high-pressure sales tactics or were lied to about the full cost of trips.

The Lynnwood company was operated by Michael Vasey, the manager of Ultima Systems Inc. of Bothell, which was ordered to pay $90,000 in restitution earlier this year to settle a state lawsuit accusing it of fraud.

"The business’ name may have changed, but the game was the same: deception," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "In both cases, consumers paid as much as $3,000 for memberships that didn’t deliver the travel discounts promised."

The company typically offered a free prize or plane tickets to entice people to listen to a sales pitch for the travel club. It offered discounts that never materialized.

The lawsuit also alleged that later meetings held to teach consumers how to make the most of their travel club memberships were actually high-pressure attempts to sell them interests in time-hare resorts marketed by Pahio Vacation Ownership.

The state settled with Pahio Vacation Ownership in August.

Vacation Marketing Systems is prohibited from misrepresenting material information to consumers, including the size, quantity and availability of discounts, its ability to respond to consumer questions and complaints, and from misrepresenting the nature of any of its orientation presentations.

The settlement also requires the firm to adequately disclose the value of any prize, the odds of winning and any restrictions placed on the prize. The company also must either refund money to consumers who file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division or enter into arbitration to resolve those complaints.

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