A Fort Lauderdale company that promised free cruises over the phone will have to pay a minimum USD 56 million fine in a class-action settlement with consumers who complained they were targeted in violation of junk-call telemarketing laws.
In the settlement, Caribbean Cruise Line has agreed to pay consumers a minimum of USD 56 million and possibly up to USD 76 million. The company denies the calls violated the law and says the settlement is a compromise to avoid the risk and cost of a trial.
According to the suit, Caribbean Cruise Line marketed timeshare and vacation properties through the calls. Their robocall blitzing wasn’t restricted to the U.S. – you may have received one, or 10 or 20 yourself. In fact, the company behind Caribbean Cruise Line was fined $200,000 by the CRTC in 2015 after complaints from Canadians.
Consumers who answered the phone were asked to participate in a political survey in exchange for a free cruise. If the caller took the survey they were transferred, at their option, to a Caribbean Cruise Line agent. A cheap vacation was promised, but it inevitably came with unmentioned add-ons and an aggressive time-share pitch during the trip.
Consumers who joined the lawsuit said the calls were frequent and annoying.
"As a business owner, I am plagued by numerous sales calls and surveys all day long. It can be quite irritating," Thomas J. Taylor, a Lackawanna, N.Y. doctor, wrote in a letter to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where the suit was filed. "I remember these particular calls because of what they were offering and the frequency of when they were calling me back."
The settlement provides for a $500 payment per call. If the total claims exceed $76 million, the amount could be less, while if claims do not reach $56 million individual payments could be more.
Caribbean Cruise Line has ties to a previous cruise marketer, Imperial Majesty Cruise Line, which entered into a consent decree with the Florida attorney general in 2010 and agreed to pay $16 million in fines and restitution for failing to disclose extra fees not included in the advertised price of a cruise.