FOX 8 Defenders: Investigation launched into travel company - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

FOX 8 Defenders: Investigation launched into travel company

After the FOX 8 Defenders first report featured three consumers who allege Festiva Adventure Travel scammed them, 15 more complaints, all mirroring the originals, came to the Defender's attention.

In October 2009, Ronald Dwyer says he received a phone call from Festiva that intrigued him.

"When they contacted me, they told me I had one of three prizes; A Ford Explorer, a 42 inch TV or a seven day cruise," Dwyer recalled.

Hoping they'd won the SUV, Dwyer and his wife came to Festiva's offices in One Canal Place to claim their prize.

"The first thing they asked me was if I had a major credit card. I didn't know what I needed a credit card for. I just came to see if I won a prize," said Dwyer.

Dwyer says he ended up sitting through a Festiva vacation plan explanation lasting several hours.

"It's a high pitch sale. They usher you from one room to another room trying to get you to sign something because they sweeten the deal, you know."

Eventually, Dwyer signed the deal to finance a vacation plan after he says he was offered one more free gift.

"Another guy came in there and he says this is what we can do. We can give you a cruise for three days free," Dwyer says.

At 17 percent interest, Dwyer put $1,600 on a credit card, then agreed to pay monthly payments of $134. His membership is for 40 years. two months later, Dwyer says he received a bill for a maintenance fee which he says he was never told about.

"I'm like, I haven't even gone anywhere. What's the maintenance fee? What are y'all maintaining?" Dwyer wondered.

Dwyer also says he either never received or was never able to use his free gifts, so he tried to contact Festiva.

"I wasn't able to talk to anyone. That's another problem I had with them. When you call, you just get an answering service. You wind up just talking to machines. I'm like, this ain't getting nowhere and that's when I contacted the FOX 8 Defenders."

It turns out the FOX 8 Defenders aren't the only ones looking into Festiva.

Louisiana's Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell says his office's consumer protection division has opened a civil investigation into Festiva as well as attornery's general offices in seven other states.

Caldwell says a confidentiality agreement bars him from disclosing the specifics of the investigations, but that it, like all civil investigations, seeks to make those who have filed complaints whole.

But Caldwell isn't stopping there.

He's also opening a criminal investigation into Festiva to determine if there's been any theft by fraud.

In a written response, Festiva says these are false allegations and that its sales staff goes to "great length to ensure out interactions with consumers are fair and accurate."

Festiva says an internal survey shows customer satisfaction in the New Orleans sales site is above 95 percent.

Festiva says it carefully reviews every customer complaint. The Festiva staff determined Mr. Dwyer did not have a legitimate complaint.

Meantime, the Louisiana Attorney General's office would like to hear from you if you have a complaint against Festiva.

If you have a consumer problem, call the FOX 8 Defenders at 1-877-670-6397.







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