Florida’s campaign to stop unlicensed travel insurance appears to be at a crossroads. State regulators yesterday sent a two-count notice
Looks like Palm Coast Travel has company. Florida regulators have filed charges against three more travel agencies as part of their expanding probe of unlicensed insurance offered through defunct Prime Travel Protection.
Florida’s Department of Financial Services is in the early stages of a far-reaching investigation into the activities of Palm Coast
As I reported last week, Palm Coast Travel and its companies, including Smartcruiser.com, are headed to a hearing with a Florida administrative law judge to determine if it sold unlicensed travel insurance. This is an important story, because fake “trip protection” policies are known to have been sold to people across the country for years, potentially costing travelers millions of dollars in lost vacations.
Only a few weeks ago, Palm Coast Travel, one of three large travel agencies the state of Florida last year alleged had sold unlicensed insurance, seemed to have everything going for it. The state’s investigation into its activities appeared to have hit a dead end. The company, which runs the site Smartcruiser.com, had sued one of its customers and me in an effort to silence its critics. And it was issuing an average of one press release a week, touting its Better Business Bureau rating and obsession with customer service. But late last week, in an unexpected twist, Florida regulators filed an amended notice of intent to issue a cease and desist order with more detailed charges against Lake Worth, Fla.-based Smolinski and Associates, Inc., which, in addition to doing business as Palm Coast Travel and Smartcruiser.com, also operates under the name Smart Travel Group, Smart Cruiser Holdings and Tripsmart. Any way you read the latest allegations, it’s clear that Florida’s Department of Financial Services has no intention of letting this case fade away. (Here’s the first notice, for comparison purposes.)
Here we go again.
Florida has warned three travel agencies that sold insurance policies offered by bankrupt Prime Travel Protection Services of Arvada, Colo., that its activities may run afoul of state statues. State authorities on March 5 issued an intent to order a cease and desist against Port St. Lucie, Fla.-based Vacation Superstore, which operates Best Price Cruises; Sarasota, Fla.-based Legendary Journeys and Lake Worth, Fla.-based Palm Coast Travel, which owns the site Smartcruiser.com.