BOSTON — An online travel agency that went dark at the beginning of the pandemic and refused to offer refunds, will pay back more than $550,000 to hundreds of Massachusetts customers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Wednesday.
BookIt Operating LLC, an online company based in Florida, and its director, Arthur Paul Finlaw, will pay $551,835 to 539 Massachusetts travelers, according to the AG’s Office.
“This company did stuff that was really bad and really egregious,” Healey said. “You had people who paid money to this company, who took money knowing that they weren’t going to be able to book this trip, and yet pocketed it and didn’t return it to the customer.”
25 Investigates reported in April hundreds of customers said they were out thousands of dollars when the company suddenly shut down services in March.
A message on the BookIt website still warns consumers the company is “currently unable to process refunds.”
A spokesman for the Florida Attorney General’s Office said the company remains under investigation.
“Our Consumer Protection Investigation into BookIt.com is still active and ongoing,” Director of Communications Whitney Ray said in an email to Boston 25 News.
Customers were left battling for refunds with their banks or credit card companies.
Many shared their stories in the Facebook group, “Scammed by Book It,” which has 2,600 members.
Randolph mother Taisha Chevere spent months fighting to get the $1,700 she lost on her family’s canceled vacation to Cancun, Mexico.
“We’re all going through the pandemic. We know what’s going on. But I think it was wrong of them to just close down and not refund anyone,” Chevere said.
Others, like Erin McManus in Braintree, said they will never use a third party travel website again.
“I would never, ever, ever use any [third party websites] again, because if they go out of business, there’s not a lot you can do to recoup your money,” McManus said.
Customers waiting for refunds from BookIt should receive their money in the next 45 days, the AG’s Office said.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen travel companies take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis by cheating consumers and pocketing payments for canceled trips,” Healey said.
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