Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Wednesday a lawsuit against GVN Michigan Inc., which does business as Global Vacation Network, and Global Connections Inc. for misleading consumers in order to sell travel memberships.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks an end to deceptive practices, restitution for consumers, and civil penalties.
"We do not tolerate blatant violations of Ohio's consumer protection laws, and this operation has routinely used advertisements that deceive and confuse consumers," Attorney General DeWine said. "Telling consumers they have won an award or prize when they really haven't is deceptive, and we are taking action to hold these businesses accountable."
According to the lawsuit, GVN solicits Ohio consumers to attend sales presentations where it markets and sells Global Connections travel membership packages.
GVN has a principal place of business in Florida, and Global Connections has a principal place of business in Kansas, but sales presentations have occurred in Dublin, Ohio, and Independence, Ohio.
In 2010, GVN entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (out-of-court settlement) with the Ohio Attorney General's Office where it agreed to stop unfair and deceptive advertisements.
Despite that settlement, the Attorney General's Office alleges that the deceptive ads have continued.
One ad tells consumers that they have qualified for an award of two round-trip airline tickets (seemingly from "US Airlines").
Another says they have been selected to receive an eight-day cruise and round-trip airfare.
Another appears to be a pick-up notification for a package that contains a new tablet.
The majority of ads do not identify the name of the business making the offer, and they do not disclose that in order to be eligible to receive the award, consumers must attend a 90-minute sales presentation, where they would be induced to buy travel memberships.
The ads also fail to disclose that receipt of the free airfare or cruise is conditioned upon the consumer paying fees.
Dozens of consumers have filed complaints with the Ohio Attorney General's Office about these kinds of advertisements.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General accuses GVN Michigan and Global Connections of violating Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act, including failing to disclose exclusions and limitations in ads, violating the Prize Rule, making misrepresentations, and failing to comply with an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.
Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to research businesses and advertisements carefully.
Consumers can check with the Ohio Attorney General's Office and Better Business Bureau to look for complaints, and they can perform an Internet search to find additional information.