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.)