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TN Joins Multi-State, Multi-National Initiative Against Travel, Timeshare Deception

Press release from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper; June 6, 2013:

Tennessee is cautioning consumers about deceptive travel promoters and timeshare resellers as part of a joint multi-state, multi-national law enforcement initiative, coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today.

Attorney General Cooper and Gary Cordell, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs (a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance), are urging consumers to beware in light of complaints of deceptive conduct by some timeshare and vacation club companies. Among the allegations are that some are using misleading sales tactics to induce consumers into purchasing timeshare or vacation club programs that have high maintenance fees, poor travel date and destination selection, and hidden costs. Other abuses consumers complain about include cancellation issues, difficulty contacting customer service, and misleading or deceptive high pressure sales presentations.

Complaints have cropped up of another deceptive practice involving promoters tricking consumers into purchasing deeply discounted or “free” vacation packages supposedly worth thousands of dollars. More often than not, consumers receive nothing of value or are required to attend lengthy, high-pressure timeshare sales presentations.

“At this time of the year when timeshare owners realize they may not be able to take a vacation at their designated ownership time, it’s especially important to do your homework when dealing with someone who claims to be able to quickly sell or rent your vacation spot,” Attorney General Cooper said. “In that same vein, last minute vacation planners should beware of those companies hawking so-called ‘free” or deeply discounted vacations, which are likely anything but what they expect.”

Many consumers who are unhappy with their timeshares and are unable to cancel may try and sell their timeshares. Tennessee consumers have complained of timeshare and vacation club resellers who claim they can get top dollar prices to buy or rent timeshare property or vacation club points. Most consumer complaints stem from those companies asking for upfront fees after falsely claiming they have renters or buyers at the ready.

“Unfortunately, many consumers ultimately end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in bogus closing costs and unsold properties or points packages,” DCA Director Cordell added. “Many of these scammers also promise refunds to consumers, but most consumers never get their money back.”

Today’s announcement coincides with the announcement of 83 civil actions by the FTC and more than 27 states; more than 74 state, local and federal criminal actions; and 24 international actions brought by eight countries. To protect against these types of frauds, AG Cooper and Director Cordell offered some tips to avoid becoming a victim.

Some Signs It’s a Travel Scam:

  • You “won a free vacation,” but you have to pay some fees first.
  • The prize company wants your credit card number.
  • They cold-call, cold-text, or email you out of the blue. Before you do business with any company you don’t know, call the local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state to check on complaints; then, search online for consumer complaints.
  • They don’t — or can’t —give you specifics.
  • You get pressure to sign up for a travel club for great deals on future vacations.
  • You get a robocall about it. Robocalls from companies are illegal if you haven’t given a company written permission to call you; even if you haven’t signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry.

Tips to Avoid a Timeshare Resale Scam:

  • Check out the company before you agree to anything. See if the Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state have complaints, then search online for complaints.
  • Deal only with licensed real estate brokers or agents.
  • Get all terms in writing before you agree to anything.
  • Consider doing business only with someone who gets paid after the timeshare is sold.
  • Be alert to a repeat scam.
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Press Releases

Travel Tech Group Lauds Demise of Local Tourism Tax Shift

Press release from the Travel Technology Association; March 20, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Travel Tech: The Travel Technology Association applauds the wisdom of the Tennessee Senate State and Local Government Committee for voting “no” on Senate Bill 212, which would have created new taxes on brick-and-mortar and online travel services. Online travel companies (OTCs), Tennessee travel agents, anti-tax organizations, independent Tennessee hoteliers, business travelers, internet coalitions and other groups were among those who raised concerns about the impact of the proposal.

Tennessee joins a number of other states in the last two years, including Florida, Virginia, Utah, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Mexico that have considered and rejected similar taxes as unworkable and harmful to tourism and job creation. This marks the second consecutive year that the Tennessee Senate has recognized these taxes as bad policy for Tennessee. A federal court in Goodlettsville, TN, also sided with the OTCs in 2012, holding they were already in compliance with Tennessee tax law.

“We hope the bill supporters in Tennessee now recognize that they were led astray by interest groups looking to use public policy as a competitive tactic to impose new taxes on traditional travel agents and OTCs alike,” said Simon Gros , Chairman of Travel Tech. “OTCs and traditional travel agents are in the business of encouraging travel to places like Tennessee, which creates real jobs and real tax revenue.”

The bills would have also imposed major compliance burdens for local businesses in Tennessee. Any Tennessee-based travel agent who used the fee-for-service merchant model for bookings and assembling travel packages would have had to take on the unprecedented responsibility of calculating and remitting the tax owed in multiple taxing jurisdictions. These added compliance costs would have placed particular strain on traditional brick-and-mortar travel agents, who already operate in a business climate marked by extremely low margins.

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Press Releases

Orange Barrels on Holiday Break

State of Tennessee press release, Dec. 18, 2009:

Tennessee Halts Lane Closure Activity for Seasonal Travelers

Rockslide detours demain in place for I-40 in North Carolina & U.S. 64 near Chattanooga

NASHVILLE –Holiday travelers should enjoy a smooth drive through Tennessee during the busy Christmas and New Year’s travel holiday. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is once again halting all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state.

No lane temporary lane closures will be allowed for construction on Tennessee roadways beginning at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 23 through 6:00 a.m. on Monday, January 4.

“Many Tennesseans traditionally take advantage of the opportunity to travel to visit family and friends during this holiday period,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “We want to ensure that motorists traveling in Tennessee arrive at their destinations safely and with as little disruption as possible.”

Except for a few long-term closures which must remain in place for safety, all construction related closures will be suspended. Workers will also be on site in some construction zones. Drivers should obey all posted speed limits, particularly in construction areas. Slower speeds are necessary in work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway and will be enforced. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of $250 to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums.

“Drivers can expect to see increased law enforcement on the roads throughout the holiday with a particular focus on stopping drivers who are impaired,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “We want everyone to have a safe holiday so remember to buckle up, drive the speed limit and don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve had anything to drink.”

AAA predicts holiday travel will increase 3% in Tennessee. An estimated 1.3 million are expected to travel by automobile in the volunteer state and another 40,000 are anticipated to travel by air for a total of 1.46 million travelers. Across the U.S. 87.7 million are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this year.

Motorists in the eastern part of Tennessee will have to detour around two rockslides that have closed I-40 in North Carolina and U.S. 64 in Polk County, Tennessee near Chattanooga. Motorists can find more information on both rockslides, including detours, by visiting the TDOT website.

For up-to-date travel information, motorists may call 511 from any land line or cellular phone or visit. TDOT is also on Twitter. Click here for statewide travel Tweets. Motorists are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly. Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. Drivers should “Know before you go!” and check traffic conditions before leaving for your destination.