A lawsuit has been filed against Tareq Salahi and two related entities involved in a wine tour venture for alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced Monday.
Among the alleged violations: not delivering tours as promised, not providing refunds for tours they canceled, and misrepresenting reputable businesses as "official partners."
Salahi and the other two defendants, Virginia Wine Tourism, Inc. and Celebration Entertainment Productions, LLC (collectively, "VirginiaWineTour.com"), offer wine tour services in the Northern Virginia region through the web site VirginiaWineTour.com, according to Cuccinell's office.
Cuccinelli said that Salahi is the sole officer and director and presumed sole owner of Virginia Wine Tourism, Inc. and the presumed sole member and manager of Celebration Entertainment Productions, LLC.
The Attorney General's Office said that VirginiaWineTour.com "offers to provide transportation to and prearranged tours with individual wineries. The tours offered range from four-hour tours for small groups to week-long charters for up to 45 guests. Tour prices range from $200 to $1,350 for day tours, or more for weeklong charters."
Based on complaints filed with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau and his own investigation, Cuccinelli alleges that VirginiaWineTour.com has not been delivering wine tours as promised.
In Cuccinelli's complaint, he alleges that VirginiaWineTour.com violated the VCPA in the following ways:
- Failing to deliver agreed-upon services. Some consumers reported that, often on the morning of their scheduled wine tours, they received calls informing them that the tours were cancelled, with the caller typically citing a vehicle malfunction as the reason for the cancellation. Some consumers never heard from the company again after paying in advance for the services.
- Failing to deliver services as promised. Some consumers complained they were not taken to all of the wineries that were promised to them, or that the mode of transportation was not as advertised or promised.
- Failing to deliver on promises to deliver refunds. When VirginiaWineTour.com failed to provide promised services, it often promised to make consumers whole by, among other things, providing full refunds to consumers. These promises sometimes were made in writing and refunds were not ultimately given.
- Misrepresenting affiliations with reputable businesses. VirginiaWineTour.com's web site displays logos of several reputable businesses, including United Airlines, the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia, and Facebook, listing them all as "official partners." The attorney general has reason to believe that many, if not all, of the entities whose logos appear on VirginiaWineTour.com's website are not "official partners" with VirginiaWineTour.com.
The lawsuit, which was filed with the Fauquier County Circuit Court, asks that the court enjoin VirginiaWineTour.com from violating the VCPA and that all money acquired from consumers in violation of the law be returned. The suit also seeks civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation of the act.
Consumers may file complaints regarding VirginiaWineTour.com with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs. Complaint forms can be obtained by clicking here or by calling the Office of Consumer Affairs at (800) 552-9963.