A telemarketer sold us vacation certificates for Disney World and other vacations. He misrepresented what he was selling. The "resort" that was supposed to be in "Disney World's backyard" was a cheap hotel six miles away.
The $99.00 certificates also had (we learned later) other financial requirements for use: a $49 "activation fee" per certificate; a "reservation processing fee" of $58; a $75 fee if selected dates were within seven days of a holiday (of which there were many); $159 per person age 12+ (lesser fees for younger children) for "port charges"; plus you had to buy your own DisneyWorld tickets and listen to a 90-minute sales presentation.
The company audiotaped the sales conversation, including confirmation, using only those parts that indicated your agreement to certain terms. They then withdrew $296.00 from our checking account electronically (the $99 certificate charge + the $49 activation fee for each of two certificates).
Soon after the vacation certificates arrived and after I had done a bit of research and learned that we did not have a good deal at all, I called Corporate Travel to request a refund. They refused, saying that my wife had agreed on their audiotape to some "no refund" policy. I escalated to what I assumed was the second in command of the "company" and got no cooperation at all - only belligerent refusals.
I learned that the company CEO was named (or pseudonymed) Don Williams. I tried to talk to him many times. He was always "on the phone," "unavailable," or "out of the office" until various dates that seemed to change everytime I called. I left messages, but they were always returned by others who refused to refund the money and sometimes even insisted that "only Mr. Williams had the power to authorize refunds."
I sent back the vacation certificates and a written request for refund and documented both what I had sent and its date of receipt in Maitland. I notified them by phone and in writing that they had thirty days from date of their receipt of the request to make the refund in full. I quoted them the state law (Florida Statute 559.933, the Florida Sellers of Travel Act) requiring the refund. They refused and were quite mean about it. Once, I was even told that I should take whatever legal action I wanted, but "the sale stands as is."
I filed a complaint with the Florida Division of Consumer Services (see www.800helpfla.com). They put it in their queue. I also had learned upon inquiring that the division that Corporate Travel had thirteen complaints since they started business seven months earlier with summaries ranging from "billing dispute" to "reservations unsatisfactory" to "breach of contract."
I also discovered that "Absolute Reservation Center," a company that Corporate Travel presented as a separate, independent agent that they used, was also registered under the name "Corporate Travel" and started business just four months previous to my complaint. They have common ownership.
Nothing happened until I called Corporate Travel again, thirty-two days after I knew that the vacation certificates and my refund request were in their possession. I was put off again when I asked for Don Williams. The person on the phone said, "Mr. Williams can't do anything for you, because we have a recording saying you agreed to it." Eventually, I was connected to another woman named "Jessica." She was resistant too.
Then I informed her that I had requested a full refund thirty-two days previous in accordance with the Florida Sellers of Travel Act and had received no refund. I told her that her company was in direct violation of the law, and I had filed a complaint with the Florida Dividion of Consumer Services.
She put me on hold at that point, and I was on hold for several minutes. When she came back on the line, she was very conciliatory. She apologized, said she wasn't aware of the situation, and said "I know the credit was supposed to have been done." Two hours later, she called me back and said the credit was put through, and I would get the money in seven to ten business days. Two hours after that, the money was electronically deposited to my account.
My advice: DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH CORPORATE TRAVEL or any company that works this way. If you have been ripped off, keep working on it. They try as hard as they can to act tough, refuse you, and tell you that you haven't a leg to stand on. They expect you to go away in frustration. I am certain that very few follow through and stick to it. If you do, you'll get your money back.
This company knows that what it does is in violation of the law. As soon as you have waited the requisite time (the legal thirty days without a refund) and have shown them that you can give them some very negative governmental attention, they suddenly become very cooperative. For every fish they have to let off the hook, they have ninety or one hundred that they have filleted to the tune of $148-$600 each (more, if they actually try the vacation). Be persistent and keep good documentation. You can get off the hook too.