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Seller law may outlast sunset clause

Seller law may outlast sunset clause
By Laura Del Rosso
article from http://www.travelweekly.com/articles.aspx?articleid=34829

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Seller of Travel law would become permanent under proposed legislation that recently passed the state’s Senate Business and Professions Committee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), eliminates the Jan. 1, 2006, "sunset" clause of the law, said to be the most far-reaching state law affecting the travel industry in the country.

The law was passed as a three-year test in 1995 and was renewed in 1998 with the sunset provision.

The law requires annual registration and payment of a $100 fee by firms -- in state or out -- that sell travel to California residents. Sellers must also display their registration number in all advertising and promotion.

The law also created the Travel Consumer Restitution Corp. (TCRC), a $1.6 million fund for state residents harmed by registered, California-based travel companies.

In addition to making the law permanent, the bill would change the time limit for a claim to one year after the date of travel -- it currently is six months -- and require the TCRC to make annual reports on its operations.

The California Coalition of Travel Organizations (CCTO), made up of ASTA chapters and other travel groups in California, has been the key industry supporter of the Seller of Travel law.

The CCTO said it is working with the state attorney general and Speier regarding "provisions currently contained in [the bill], as well as issues with the existing law."

Travel attorney Alexander Anolik, who represents ARTA, a long-time critic of the law, claims it places an unnecessary and unfair financial burden on travel companies while offering little consumer protection.

"This is a fund-raiser for the attorney general’s office," Anolik said, charging that the proposed legislation is prompted by the state’s budget crisis.