A Fort Lauderdale company that markets free cruises over the
phone will have to pay tens of millions of dollars in a class-action settlement
with consumers who complained they were targeted in violation of junk-call
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is designed to curb
indiscriminate robocalls by marketers. It is intended in part to separate
legitimate phone marketing, such as the follow-up on leads when consumers
indicate an interest in a cruise, from random automated dialing to troll for
In the settlement, Caribbean Cruise Line has agreed to pay
consumers a minimum of $56 million and possibly up to $76 million. The company
denies the calls violated the law and said 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.
Consumers who answered the phone were asked to participate
in a political survey in exchange for a free cruise. Many of the surveys were
from Political Surveys of America. If the caller took the survey they were
transferred, at their option, to a Caribbean Cruise Line agent who made a
At minimum, the unsolicited cruise calls were annoying, said
consumers who joined the suit.
"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.
One of Imperial Majesty's owners was Fort Lauderdale
businessman Daniel Lambert. Although not an officer of Caribbean Cruise Line,
Lambert is listed as the sponsor of its 401(k) retirement plan in forms filed
with the U.S. Department of Labor.
Imperial Majesty and Caribbean Cruise Line also share the
same Fort Lauderdale address.
Caribbean Cruise Line agreed to settle the suit in September
just prior to the start of a trial. A judge recently signed the settlement.
Consumers have until Feb. 1 to submit a claim for payment.