It’s been nearly a decade since the Federal Trade Commission launched Operation Travel Unravel, a sweeping program that targeted travel industry fraud in America. Since then, the agency’s only major travel-related initiative — apart from an enforcement action or two — appears to have been to launch an interactive game designed to increase consumer awareness of travel industry mischief.
Did the good guys win, or are the fraudsters unraveling travel while the watchdogs sleep?
The FTCs actions in 2000 capped several years of intensive travel-related campaigns, including Operation Trip Up in 1997 and Operation Trip Trap two years later.
Travel Unravel was billed as a bilateral effort with 19 state authorities to uncover fraud and deception that cost consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. It resulted in 85 actions for alleged law violations, including failure to disclose the actual cost of travel packages, misleading consumers by telling them they won a free trip while subsequently charging fees, and failing to inform travelers that when purchasing a package they will be required to attend one, or several, timeshare presentations.
Sadly, these actions didn’t send the bad guys packing. At least not all of them.
I’ve shared some of my findings with the Federal Trade Commission, but there’s no evidence that they’ve taking any of the current problems as seriously as they did in the past.
Maybe it’s time for another sting. Whaddya say, fellas?
(Photo: Brian Barnett/Flickr)