Friday, February 21, 2003

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Attorney General Abbott Sues To Stop Deceptive Marketing Of Travel Club Membership

AUSTIN-- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit in Dallas this morning asking a district court to grant a temporary restraining order to stop Sun Country Travel and its principals from representing that the Attorney General endorses its sales and marketing practices. The lawsuit also seeks a halt to a number of other deceptive practices against consumers.

"In fact, we're filing suit today as a way of saying loud and clear that my office does not endorse any business or its practices," said Attorney General Abbott. "Additionally we're alleging that this travel club, among other things, is deceiving its members by repeatedly saying, directly or indirectly, that my office supports their activities."

The suit also alleges that Sun Country representatives have claimed in their sales pitches that they are in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, when in fact the bureau reports that Sun Country has an unsatisfactory record with a pattern of complaints involving misrepresentation.

The company has offices in Arlington, Carrollton and Houston. Vavro, McDonald and Associates, L.L.C. also known as Vavro, McDonald, Kennedy and Associates, L.L.C., and Texas Travel Partners, L.L.C., doing business as Sun Country Travel, were officially named in this suit. Two of the company's principals, Jerry L. McDonald, Sr. and Jerry L. McDonald, Jr., have been named in the suit as well.

Sun Country typically initiates customer contact via a telemarketing scheme. The callers describe a "completely free" vacation offer to consumers, but ask that they first attend a 90-minute marketing presentation describing the company's various discount travel services. The telemarketers fail to disclose, however, the various fees, taxes and other costs associated with these so-called "free" vacations, plus they do not disclose that there are strict limitations on when the trips can be taken.

The Attorney General brings this suit under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act due to these and other misleading representations. In addition to the temporary restraining order, the Attorney General will seek temporary and permanent injunctions, restitution, civil penalties and attorney fees.

The company acts or has acted as a distributor for various travel clubs such as Grand Getaways, Vacation Travel Club and Travel Service Network. Sun Country sells discount travel memberships in these clubs for up to $7,000, plus registration fees and annual dues. The Sun Country sales people promise that this membership entitles consumers to substantial discounts on hotels, condominiums, airfare, cruises and rental cars.