For nine months in 2011 and 2012, millions of people were allegedly offered a “free” cruise by Fort Lauderdale-based Caribbean Cruise Line, only to later learn there was an unexpected sales pitch and additional fees tied to their surprise vacations.
Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and nine other states’ attorney generals settled the last of several charges against the cruise marketer — which also has one ship, the 1,250-passenger Bahamas Celebration that sails from the Port of Palm Beach — and seven other companies that participated in a massive telemarketing scheme.
From October 2011 to July 2012, Caribbean Cruise Line and its partners allegedly made billions of robocalls — about 12 to 15 million a day — using political surveys, according to a suit filed in March 2015. Consumers typically heard a 30-second prerecorded message from “John from Political Opinions of America” asking them to take part in a research survey, the complaint said. Once they were done, consumers were asked to “press one” for a free two-day cruise to the Bahamas on Caribbean Cruise Line.
Consumers typically heard a 30-second prerecorded message from “John from Political Opinions of America” and then asked to “press one” for a free two-day cruise to the Bahamas on Caribbean Cruise Line.
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Consumers who pressed one were taken to a telemarketer for Caribbean Cruise Line, which also sold other travel packages, according to the complaint.
The calls violated federal law, the Federal Trade Commission alleged, because they incorporated a sales pitch into a political survey. The calls generated millions of dollars for the cruise line, according to the complaint.
Five interrelated companies, led by owner Fred Accuardi, assisted Caribbean Cruise Line in the calls, the trade commission alleged, by providing hundreds of telephone numbers, making it possible for robocallers to choose and change the names appearing on consumers’ caller ID and hide the identity of robocallers from authorities.
In the settlement reached Tuesday in Florida district court, Fred Accuardi and his companies are barred from conducting or helping someone else conduct robocalls and engaging in illegal telemarketing practices. Though the judgment called for a $1.35 million fine, the agreement reduced the payment to $2,500, based on the companies’ financial condition.