Court Rules for Travel Agencies in CST Flap

Agencies score another legal victory in ongoing California Seller of Travel saga

By: David Peterkofsky

More than 200 agencies scored a second legal victory as the California Superior Court in Sacramento tossed out a request for a court order that would require agencies named in a class-action suit to display their California Seller of

Travel registration numbers on their Web sites. The Consumer Action League, the plaintiff in the class action, filed suit this spring against the agencies, claiming the retailers failed to post their CST numbers online, as California state law requires. Upon filing the suit, Brian Kindsvater, the plaintiff’s attorney, argued that citizens of California were harmed by the agencies’ lack of a CST number and gave the agencies the opportunity to individually settle the suit out of court for a fee rather than go to trial.

This victory for the agencies follows a July ruling in which the court denied a motion by the Consumer Action League to collect damages from the agencies it is suing.

Still to be determined by the court: whether the Consumer Action League can collect legal fees from the agencies for bringing the case.

The most recent ruling in the CST suit pleased agencies named therein.

“We’re not surprised, and we never really considered it a threat to legitimate businesses,” said Brad Anderson, president of San Diego-based Anderson Travel & Cruises. “We really work hard to follow all the rules, whether we agree with them or not.”

Anderson, whose agency is one of approximately 70 using the legal services of ASTA’s Litigation Center, doesn’t recall his agency ever leaving its CST number off of its Web site, and even if it was omitted, he doesn’t think its absence harmed the public.

“I think there are bigger issues for the courts to be addressing,” he said. “I’m pleased they saw it the same way.”

Karl Dring, general manager of the San Diego Travel Group, believes the court’s rulings thus far could discourage copycat suits from appearing down the line.

“I hope it sends a signal to [the attorney] and others who would fabricate something out of nothing and try to extort money out of an industry that has plenty of challenges anyway,” said Dring, whose multilocation agency is also among those named in the suit. “It was very clear this was completely self-serving.”