A Florida corporation whose "free" vacations cost more than $250 per person plus air fare must pay $75,000 in penalties and change the way it does business in California, the Ventura County district attorney's office announced Monday.
Vacation Break USA Inc., which offered trips to Florida and the Bahamas, misled consumers into thinking they had won a free vacation, officials said. When they accepted the company's offer, consumers learned they had to pay $249 each, port fees and hotel taxes, round-trip air fare, and buy their own meals while on land.
Ventura County and Napa County prosecutors filed a joint action against the company in Ventura County Superior Court in June 1996. Last April, the California attorney general's office joined the action.
According to the final judgment in the case, Vacation Break will pay $50,000 in civil penalties, including $20,000 to Ventura County. The company must also give a one-year extension to consumers who paid for vacations between Nov. 1, 1995, and June 4, 1996. Local consumers who called the district attorney's office during the litigation and who have not yet traveled are entitled to a refund, according to the judgment.
In addition, Vacation Break's mailers must clearly state the vacations are not free and the company must also register with the California attorney general's office.