NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -- California travel agents and tour operators will not be getting any bills this year from the Travel Consumer Restitution Corp., which operates the unique program that pays refunds to state residents who have been financially hurt by registered travel companies.

For the first time in the six-year history of the California Seller of Travel law, there is no need to levy assessments of the state's travel firms -- neither to replenish the restitution fund or to pay for its operating expenses, said Patty Campbell, TCRC president and an agent with All About Travel, Northridge, Calif.

The reason for the good news is that there was no major bankruptcy or failure of a registered California travel seller in 2000, so there were few claims from consumers that forced the fund to be tapped for refunds, she said.

And, Campbell said, "The fund has been well-managed and it has grown because the interest we are receiving has outstripped the claims that have been paid out."

The restitution fund is at "about $1.9 million," which is above the $1.2 million level required by the Seller of Travel law, she said.

The law requires that the five-member board of directors of the TCRC -- made up of registered travel sellers -- establish at the start of each calendar year the fee that California-based travel sellers must replenish the fund when it dips below $1.2 million to bring to $1.6 million.

Since the start of the restitution fund program, the TCRC board has also levied a fee -- typically $15 per year -- on registered travel sellers to pay for the operating expenses of the program, which is run by a private fulfillment company.

However, because of the operation of the fund "is way below budget," no administrative fee is required this year, said Campbell.

Travel companies who sell travel to California residents still must pay the annual registration fee to the state attorney general's office of $100, which is required by the Seller of Travel law.

It is a crime in California to sell travel to state residents without registering first with the attorney general's office.

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