Attorney General Chris Carr recently announced that the Georgia Attorney General’s office has entered into a Consent Judgment with Voyageurs International Ltd. (“Voyageurs”) and its owner, Gilford Mahaffy, to resolve allegations that the company unlawfully retained a $1,900 cancelation fee from numerous high school music students and their families who had prepaid for a trip to Europe that was subsequently unilaterally canceled by the company due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Consent Judgment, which was filed with the Court on December 29, 2020, requires Voyageurs to pay $231,560.00 in restitution to the Attorney General’s Office to be disbursed in its entirety to the affected Georgia consumers.
“Our office is very pleased that full refunds will be provided to Georgia high school students and parents whose trips were unilaterally canceled by Voyageurs International,” said Attorney General Carr. “While nothing can replace the trips themselves, it is my hope that this resolution will help relieve a bit of financial burden from these Georgia families.”
This matter is one of many efforts by the Attorney General’s Office’s Consumer Protection Division over the past ten months, prioritizing restitution for consumer harm resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Voyageurs is a Colorado-based company that plans and facilitates “Ambassadors of Music” travel tours to Europe for high school music students and their parents. The company had scheduled tours for the Summer of 2020 and collected payments from thousands of participants throughout the country, including in Georgia. The cost of the trip was considerable, well exceeding $6,000 per participant. When Voyageurs canceled the trip on March 17, 2020 due to the pandemic, it refused to give consumers a full refund, instead retaining a large $1,900 “cancelation fee” per person. In doing so, it cited a contract provision that purported to allow the company’s president in his sole discretion to cancel the trip for any reason and to retain the “cancelation fee.” The company, however, failed to adequately disclose to consumers that important contract term. Voyageurs also claimed to consumers that the “cancelation fee” was necessary to offset travel expenses it had been unable to recoup. However, the company had, ultimately, allegedly been able to recoup a substantial portion of the trip expenses from the hotels, airlines, vendors, venues and transportation companies.
As a result of the Consumer Protection Division’s investigation, which began in April, Voyageurs has agreed to refund the full cancelation fee to Georgia consumers whose trips were involuntarily canceled. The Consumer Protection Division also obtained from the company a substantial partial refund to additional students and parents who themselves voluntarily canceled their trips in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division will soon reach out to Georgia students and their families to arrange payment, which will occur by the end of the first quarter of 2021.