Florida’s Department of Financial Services has confirmed it is investigating travel agencies that sold insurance underwritten by Prime Travel Protection, a Colorado company that filed for bankruptcy protection last month and left thousands of travelers uninsured.
Prime Travel Protection sought to circumvent state regulations by claiming it wasn’t insurance. Jerry Watson, the company’s president, said Prime Travel Protection’s policies were “not an insurance product” and didn’t need to be licensed.
Florida authorities disagree. “This product was claimed to be insurance,” said Nina Banister, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Department of Financial Services. “It does not appear that Prime Travel Protection was an authorized entity. We’re looking for agents who were involved in selling it.”
Under Florida Statutes, any agency or agent selling unauthorized insurance faces fines and a possible suspension of license:
Any person who knowingly transacts insurance or otherwise engages in insurance activities in this state without a license in violation of this section commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Banister says Florida wants to hear from anyone who bought a Prime Travel Protection policy through a travel agency in the United States. She asks that they either call Florida’s consumer help line at (877) 693-5236 or (850) 413-3030, or fill out a complaint online.
The investigation, which appears to be in its early stages, could affect hundreds of travel agencies and thousands of travelers.
According to numerous customers, travel agencies falsely represented the Prime Travel Protection product as travel insurance. Travel agents claim that they believed Prime Travel Protection to be legitimate insurance, and that they immediately stopped selling its policies when they learned it was an unlicensed insurance product.
But Florida authorities are conducting a thorough investigation, and are interested in hearing from travelers who bought policies through other defunct travel insurance companies Watson was involved with, including Trip Assured, Vacation Protection Services and Travelers Protection Services. The punishment for travel agencies who sold those insurance policies and then continued to sell Prime Travel Protection could be severe.
“There is no statute of limitation on this,” Banister said.