Travel insurance investigations continue in Florida

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The state of Florida, which recently warned three travel agencies to stop selling on behalf of unlicensed travel insurers, might issue more such notices to Florida agents in the coming months.

The affected agents could be liable for financial penalties.

Spokesmen in the state’s Division of Consumer Services confirmed that a number of investigations are under way, but the length of the investigations and their outcome are uncertain.

The initial trio of notices, which warned of the state’s "intent" to issue cease-and-desist orders (possibly with fines or other penalties) went to Legendary Journeys in Sarasota; Palm Coast Travel, aka SmartCruiser.com, in Lake Worth and Boca Raton; and Vacation Superstore, dba Best Price Cruises, in Port St. Lucie.

The state said the agencies were selling products of the unlicensed Traveler Protection Services and/or Prime Travel Protection. However, the state’s action came after both insurers had stopped doing business.

Prime Travel Protection, based in Arvada, Colo., and operated by Jerry Watson, was the second to close, in late January.

Nevertheless, the state issued its notices to the three agencies anyway, "to put them on notice" that they must not sell for unlicensed insurance providers, said Nina Banister, communications coordinator in the Division of Consumer Services.

The state also said in the orders that the three agencies did not hold licenses to sell insurance. However, under Florida law, the license to sell insurance can be held by an individual rather than the company, and the agencies would simply have to demonstrate that someone at each agency holds a license, Banister said.

The agencies can request proceedings to contest the charges. Banister said the timing and content of the final cease-and-desist orders would depend on the agencies’ responses to the initial documents.

Al Ferguson, vice president of Legendary Journeys, stepped forward to say that Legendary Journeys’ president holds the insurance license for the agency.

As for the products, he said Prime Travel Protection was brought to the attention of some agents because it was part of the package of bookable products made available in the Revelex Power Agent desktop for leisure agencies.

Revelex announced the addition of Prime Travel Protection to its menu of insurance vendors in December 2007.


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