Settlement comes after Voyageurs travel agent denies refunds in violation of state law
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a proposed settlement against Voyageurs International, Ltd. (Travelers), resolving allegations that the Colorado-based travel agent offered only partial refunds for a canceled European trip for California high school students and inappropriately pocketed their clients’ balances. costs. Voyageurs sells European summer excursions for high school musicians offering musical and cultural experiences.
“Travel agents operating in California must comply with California consumer protection laws – if they don’t, they will be held accountable.” noted Attorney General Bonta. “We are happy to announce today that we have secured full refunds for young Californians who have had their travel plans canceled by the pandemic. Travel agents operating in California must remain honest and timely reimburse canceled trips, according to the law. ”
In March 2020, Voyageurs responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by canceling its “Ambassadors of Music” tours scheduled for next summer, but the company kept $ 1,900 of the $ 6,345 paid by each student, citing its cancellation policy and claiming that it already had paid third-party entities. Voyageurs then recovered about 60 percent of the funds it had paid to third parties, but did not return the recovered funds to students. About 3,200 students did not receive a full refund after registering for the Travelers’ tours, including about 130 participants from California.
By initially refusing refunds, Voyageurs emphasized its own cancellation policy, which purported to allow the president of the company to cancel a trip at his discretion and retain cancellation fees. Not only did the company not adequately disclose these contract terms to its customers, the company policy violated California Travel Sellers Act. Travel agents doing business in California must refund all payments made by consumers within thirty days of the agent’s cancellation, regardless of the terms of their cancellation policy, with certain exceptions.
Today’s settlement, once approved by the court, requires Voyageurs to fully reimburse its 130 California consumers, for a total of approximately $ 247,000 in restitution. The terms of the California regulations also prohibit Travelers from charging consumers a cancellation fee in cases where they are unable or unwilling to provide the purchased travel services. Travelers must also comply with all provisions of the Travel Seller Act and all California consumer protection laws.
The Attorney General’s office operates the Seller of Travel program, which registers travel agents and certain other travel companies operating in California. The attorney general, local district attorneys, and city attorneys can sue travel vendors for violating the law. We encourage any Californian who believes they have been wronged by a travel seller to contact their local district attorney and file a complaint with our office at www.oag.ca.gov/report.
A copy of the proposed settlement, subject to court approval, is available here.