AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-The Texas attorney general is seeking restitution for about 5,000 consumers he says were duped by two Florida-based travel agencies into buying worthless travel-related software.
Attorney General Greg Abbott said Monday that Escapes Austin LLC and Escapes Midwest LLC, which do business under the names Global Escapes, Blue Water, Sun Tree and others face charges for engaging in deceptive trade practices.
The companies, which operated in Austin and San Antonio, are accused of using false gift giveaways to entice customers to attend sales seminars that marketed travel-related software programs. Abbott said he is seeking restitution for people who purchased the software to find online travel deals.
The attorney general's office said the companies' sales representatives often purported to "negotiate down" from the software's $12,000 retail price to $7,000, $4,000, or to a "one-time price reduction" of $2,200.
The 73rd District Court of Bexar County issued an order freezing the defendants' assets pending the lawsuit. The lawsuit also named chief executive officer James Carey III and managing member Gwendolyn Carey as defendants.
The attorney general's action accuses the company and its operators of using direct mail and telemarketing calls to inform potential customers that they "won" free cruises, hotel stays, vehicles, flights or expensive watches.
Recipients were then told the needed to set up an appointment to hear a sales presentation in order to receive their prize.
Customers also were allegedly told they need only pay taxes due on the gifts. The company, however, did not tell consumers there were hidden costs, among other restrictions.
Authorities say consumers who could not afford to outright purchase the software were offered financing that was sometimes immediately sold off to third-party debt collection or finance companies.