The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced yesterday, June 18, her office has sued an online travel agency and its CEO for taking money from consumers for travel reservations despite knowing they would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then refusing to pay refunds.
According to the complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court today, the Florida-based BookIt Operating LLC d/b/a BookIt.com (BookIt) and its CEO and director Arthur Paul Finlaw suspended its business in March due to the pandemic but continued to take payments from consumers for planned travel. The complaint also alleges that BookIt kept consumers’ payments for its own benefit, did not forward those payments to the hotels and resorts that were booked, and now refuses to give any money back to consumers.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic made vacation plans and hotel stays impossible, BookIt pocketed thousands of dollars from consumers, leaving many travelers stranded and forced to pay twice for their reservations,” said AG Healey. “We are suing to get people their money back and hold BookIt accountable for refusing refunds.”
The AG’s Office began investigating BookIt after receiving nearly 60 complaints from Massachusetts consumers who lost thousands of dollars due to the company’s deceptive and illegal business practices.
The AG’s complaint alleges that when BookIt suspended its business operations, the company also stopped paying hotels and resorts for reservations, including for reservations already in progress, leaving many consumers with no choice but to pay their hotels a second time for their stay. BookIt also closed all of its call centers so that consumers had no way to contact the company to seek a refund.
The AG’s complaint also alleges BookIt has refused to refund consumers for cancelled reservations, even though the company either never paid or has received refunds from the hotels, resorts, and travel service providers for those cancelled reservations.
One consumer complained to the AG’s Office that she booked a March vacation to Cancun, Mexico, through BookIt. The consumer went on her trip as planned, but two days into her stay, the hotel where she was staying told her BookIt had not paid for her stay. Her only choice was to pay the hotel, even though she had already paid BookIt. As a result, the consumer ended her vacation early, but now can’t get her money back from BookIt.
The AG’s lawsuit seeks restitution from BookIt for consumers who have been denied refunds and civil penalties against the company for its unfair and deceptive conduct.
The AG’s Consumer Protection Division enforces Massachusetts’ consumer protection law and protects consumers from fraud, deception, and other unfair practices.
For complaints or questions about the consumer protection law, consumers may file a complaint with the office or call 617-727-8400.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Samantha Shusterman, Division Chief Max Weinstein, and Paralegal Breana Beaudreault of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, and Anthony Crespi of the Civil Investigations Division.