Every legitimate seller of travel can only stand and applaud when cheaters and crooks are stopped in their tracks by the authorities.

Whether they are pyramid schemers creating a flimsy network of insupportable promises or fly-by-night operators who abscond with clients' funds, bad actors in the travel business reflect an unflattering light on everyone else in the industry.

That being the case, we still must take issue with what appears to be an unnecessarily wide-ranging crackdown on retailers who allegedly violated the terms of California's Seller of Travel Law.

Although one agent was arrested and several others were fined for engaging in questionable sales practices and promotions that might well have put the public at risk, we are concerned that some companies were fined $1,000 to $5,000 simply for failing to register under a complex and, some would argue, difficult law with which to comply.

Our problem is not with fining those agencies for failing to sign up. Register they must.

Rather, we are concerned about a press release issued by the state attorney general's office that lumps together all those cited as "unscrupulous travel agents."

Unscrupulous indeed!

Although it framed the issue in the context of civil actions, the state has chosen to go public with its allegations, fingering a few firms as though they were criminals and not simply tardy or derelict in signing up.

For our part, we agree with ARTA legal counsel Al Anolik, who has likened the infractions -- missed deadlines and the like -- to parking tickets, though rather expensive ones at that.

It serves neither the public nor the trade for California to confuse possibly criminal conduct with the equivalent of a skipped dues payment.

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