Today’s news:

Rego Park travel agency refunds for bogus trips

A Rego Park−based bus tour agency has agreed to refund the $350,000 it owed to 1,000 customers whose trips the company canceled, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and city Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said Monday.

The company, Biss Tours Inc., which had previously refused to refund customers for what Cuomo called “bogus trips,” reached the settlement with the attorney general and the DCA Monday after they canceled and recalled more than 2,000 prepaid tour reservations without notice in August 2007, Cuomo said.

“This settlement shows that companies cannot leave their customers in the dust and expect to get away with it in New York state,” Cuomo said in a release.

A joint effort by the attorney general’s office and the DCA was spurred by more than 100 complaints filed with the DCA and 50 complaints filed with the attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York.

“These hardworking New Yorkers who saved and paid for vacations deserve their money back, and we’re pleased to have been able to get it for them,” Mintz said. “Our department is proud to bring cases like these to our consumer protections partners to help as many consumers as we can. We urge any New Yorker who finds themselves in a similar position to contact us so we can help.”

Biss officials were not available for comment. According to Cuomo’s office, the company went out of business in 2007 and canceled all of its tours, including some that were already in mid−trip.

Biss Tours, which no longer has an operating telephone number, was located at 62−85 Woodhaven Blvd. and had been in business since 1981. The group had eight employees, according to the company’s Web site.

Cuomo said it is important for New York residents to take precautions when planning a vacation.

Before booking a trip, he suggested contacting a local consumer protection agency, such as his office or the DCA, to check if the travel business has a history of complaints. City residents may call 311 to check the complaint status of any business.

“Get everything in writing,” a release issued by Cuomo’s office said. “Get all the details of your trip in writing, including cancellation fees and the businesses’ refund policy. Consider travel insurance for added protection.”

Customers of Biss Tours who have questions about refunds can call the BBB at 212−358−2857.

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