CLEVELAND (CN) – Ohio claims that a bus tour company has not refunded advance payments from schools, students and their families for canceled field trips and continued to take payments when it knew its business was failing.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Discovery Tours in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on Friday, seeking an injunction, restitution and civil penalties for alleged violations of the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act.
“We believe Discovery Tours violated consumer protection laws and must be held accountable,” DeWine said in a prepared statement. “Families and schools across the state trusted this company, and their trust was betrayed.”
The attorney general’s office said it has received more than 700 complaints about the Mayfield-based company that offered to bus students on school trips to cities around the U.S., including Washington, D.C., Chicago and Williamsburg, Va.
Most of the complaints came from disgruntled parents who had shelled out hundreds of dollars to the company before it announced earlier this month that it was closing its doors.
“My daughter’s school, Edison Middle School in Perry Township, Ohio, was going to go on a Washington, D.C. trip this May through this company. I paid $490 for her to go and now the company is non-existent and the money is gone,” a parent wrote at the Better Business Bureau website on May 9.
Another 14-year-old student was ready to travel to Washington, D.C. when, hours before he was about to leave, he learned from the Hyatt hotel that Discovery Tours had not paid the bill for the room, according to another complaint on the BBB website.
In addition, an eighth grader missed out on a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to visit the capital when the tour company failed to pay for her room, another parent wrote on May 7.
DeWine’s office said that in some instances, families had been saving up for years to send their children on trips and had held fundraisers to finance them.
“In May 2018, schools and parents were abruptly notified that defendant had closed its business and all upcoming student trips were cancelled,” the lawsuits states. “Defendant continued to accept money from schools and parents when it knew or should have known of its precarious financial position.”
The complaint continues, “Defendant failed to provide the travel services paid for, failed to respond to consumers, and failed to issue refunds.”
Discovery Tours and its owner Alfred Cipolletti did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.