December 13, 2011

"Free" cruise requires hefty fees

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a mailer from a cruise line stating I had won a trip but just had to pay a small fee, which has turned into a big fee. I would like to get my initial money back and not go any further with actually booking the trip. The document I have states “refunds subject to the state law consumer resides in.” I live in Georgia. Am I entitled to a refund?  The company refused to give it to me.

Consumer Ed says: 

It sounds like the mailer you received from the cruise ship is a promotional mailer, which is regulated in Georgia under the Fair Business Practices Act (“FBPA”). There are certain disclosures that such mailers must make in order to comply with the law. These include disclosing all additional costs which the participant will be required to pay in order to obtain a “prize” being offered as part of the promotion. If the mailer you received didn’t contain a clear and conspicuous disclosure informing you of all of the additional costs associated with the trip you had won, the business might be in violation of the law. Furthermore, if the fee you are being required to pay is anything other than a refundable deposit to the service provider, that could be an additional violation of the law. If the promotional mailer is in violation of the law, you may be entitled to get your money back.

If you believe the company failed to adequately disclose the additional costs, you should contact the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting, or by calling 404-651-8600.

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