What was Palm Coast Travel doing with its Access America policies?

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By Christopher Elliott

Florida’s Department of Financial Services is in the early stages of a far-reaching investigation into the activities of Palm Coast Travel and its affiliated companies, according to documents released this week under the state’s Public Records Act.

The documents also raise new questions about the relationship between Access America, the largest travel insurance company in the world, and Palm Coast Travel. It also does business online as Smartcruiser.com.

Access America prepared a statement yesterday. It suggested that it considers the current and future relationship with Palm Coast, accused of selling unlicensed insurance, as an internal matter.

Commitment to customer care

“Thus far we have been contacted by both customers identified in the Florida investigation. We are working to resolve each matter appropriately,” a spokesman said. “Access America will continue to take steps consistent with providing ongoing care for its customers.”

(Palm Coast Travel is suing one of its customers and me in an apparent attempt to stop us from writing about the company.)

Section 119.07(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes released the records. It indicates Palm Coast Travel told customers they were Access America policyholders, when, in fact, they were probably not.

Alleged misrepresentation of travel insurance policies

One email sent to customer Nancy Swinney from a Smartcruiser agent confirms her insurance policy as “AccessAmerica Insurance.” However, in new charges filed earlier this month against Palm Coast Travel by Florida regulators, the state charges that, “subsequent to [her] scheduled trip, her travel insurance was transferred from AccessAmerica to Prime Travel Protection, Inc.”

Prime Travel Protection closed last year amid charges it was offering unlicensed insurance products.

Another email, sent to customer Peter Lay, confirms his policy as “insurance provided by Access America.”
Palm Coast Travel is suing Lay, alleging that, subsequent to the rescheduling of his trip, they transferred his travel insurance from AccessAmerica to Smart Travel Insurance and/or Prime Travel Protection, Inc.

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If Florida’s allegations are true — if consumers were told that they had an Access America policy when they did not — then Palm Coast Travel’s actions would be considered false advertising and misrepresentation under Section 626.951(1)(a), (b) and (e) of the Florida Statutes.

The corresponding penalty would be in accordance with Section 626.9521 of the Florida Statutes. Which could include a $5,000 fine for each count of non-willful misrepresentation with a cap of $20,000. And a fine of up to $40,000 for willful conduct with a cap of $200,000. Along with a revocation or suspension of its license. (Here’s what you need to know about travel insurance.)

Access America wouldn’t comment on the record about its current or future relationship with Palm Coast Travel and Smartcruiser. It would not say on the record whether it will continue to do business with the agency.

It doesn’t have to. Under Florida law, an insurance company must give a 60-day termination notice. So check Smartcruiser.com in 60 days to see if it’s still selling Access America products.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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