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Seller of Travel Laws - Continue

Links - Laws/Regulations

§§ 17550.32. Repealed by Stats.1998, c. 924 (S.B.2175), §§ 16 and 17

§§ 17550.33. Repealed by Stats.1998, c. 924 (S.B.2175), §§ 16 and 17

§ 17550.34. Repealed by Stats.2003, c. 196 (S.B.736), § 8

§ 17550.35. Restitution corporation

"Restitution corporation" means the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

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§ 17550.36. Participant

"Participant," as used in this article, means a seller of travel, as defined in Section 17550.7, who is registered pursuant to Section 17550.20.

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§ 17550.37. Person aggrieved; filing a claim; waiver of rights; exceptions

(a) "Person aggrieved," as used in this article, means a passenger, as defined in Section 17550.3, located in California at the time of sale, or a person located in California at the time of sale who made any payment on behalf of the passenger for air or sea transportation or travel services, who has sustained a loss as a result of the failure of a seller of travel to refund payments made by or on behalf of a passenger as payment for air or sea transportation or travel services, where a refund is due as a result of the bankruptcy, insolvency, cessation of operations, or material failure to provide the transportation or travel services purchased by the passenger, regardless of whether the passenger or a person making payment on behalf of the passenger initially contracted with that seller of travel. "Loss," as used herein, shall be limited to losses that are incurred in a transaction with a seller of travel who, at the time of sale, was a paid-up participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund and was registered pursuant to Section 17550.20. "Person aggrieved" shall not mean or include a passenger, or person making payment on behalf of a passenger, in a transaction where the air or sea transportation or travel services are furnished by a business entity that is located and providing transportation or travel services outside of the United States and is not in compliance with Article 2.6 (commencing with Section 17550).

(b) Any person aggrieved who files a claim for payment from the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund thereby waives his or her right to bring any action at law or equity that is against the seller of travel as to whom the claim is made and arises from the transaction that is the subject of the claim against the restitution fund. The claim form required by Section 17550.46 shall include a clear and conspicuous notice of the waiver.

(c) The waiver of rights provided for by subdivision (b) shall not apply to any claimant whose claim is denied on any of the following grounds, as set forth in the statement of decision required by subdivision (d) of Section 17550.47:

(1) The seller of travel was not, at the time of sale, a paid-up participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund, as required by subdivision (a).

(2) The seller of travel was not, at the time of sale, registered pursuant to Section 17550.20.

(3) The claimant was not located in California at the time of sale, as required by subdivision (a).

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§ 17550.38. Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation; purpose; payment from restitution fund

(a) It is the purpose of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation to provide restitution to a person aggrieved, subject to the limitations set forth in this article. The restitution is secondary only to any relief, compensation, or reimbursement to which a person aggrieved may be entitled under any of the following:

(1) A Consumer Protection Deposit Plan, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 17550.16.

(2) A Consumer Protection Escrow Plan, as described in subdivision (c) of Section 17550.16.

(3) Travel insurance.

(4) The successful assertion by the person aggrieved of that person's rights under Section 1747.50 or 1747.90 of the Civil Code or under Section 226.12 or 226.13 of Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a person aggrieved to bring a civil action to obtain any relief, compensation, or reimbursement or to file a crime report with law enforcement in order to obtain payment from the restitution fund.

(c) The restitution shall be paid from the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund established by the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

(d) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation may request legal counsel, representation, and advice from the office of the Attorney General.

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§ 17550.39. Maintenance of corporation; liability of state

(a) Participants shall maintain a corporation under the Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation Law (Part 3 (commencing with Section 7110) of Division 2 of Title 1 of the Corporations Code) operating under the name "Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation."

(b) The State of California and any of its officers, agents, or employees shall not be liable in any manner for any act or omission of Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation, its directors, officers, agents, or employees.

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§ 17550.40. Compliance with article and rules and decisions of restitution corporation

Each participant is required to comply with the provisions of this article and shall abide by the rules and decisions of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation adopted in accordance with this article.

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§ 17550.41. Board of directors; composition; term; election§ 17550.14. Transportation or travel service not

(a) The Board of Directors of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall be composed of six directors, as follows:

(1) One public consumer representative member appointed by the Director of Consumer Affairs.

(2) One employee of the Department of Justice, assigned by the office of the Attorney General, who shall serve as an ex officio, nonvoting member.

(3) Four directors who are participants in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund.

(b) The director appointed pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) shall serve until the appointment is revoked or another appointment is made, or until the director resigns.

(c) Participant directors shall be elected by a balloting of all participants in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund in an election to be conducted by the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation in February of each year. Participant directors shall be elected to serve two-year terms, with two of the four participant directors being elected each year to staggered two-year terms.

(d) A person is eligible to be nominated and to serve as a participant director if the person satisfies all of the following conditions:

(1) The person's primary occupation, at the time of nomination and continuously during the previous three years, has been as the owner or manager of a seller of travel that is and has been in good standing both as a registered seller of travel and as a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund.

(2) The person has not been convicted of a crime, including a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere.

(3) The person is not subject to a judgment or administrative order, whether entered after adjudication or stipulation, predicated on that person's commission of an act of dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or violation of this chapter or Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 17200) of Part 2 of Division 7.

(4) The person is not a defendant in a pending criminal or civil law enforcement action brought by a public prosecutor.

(5) The person has not served as a participant director of the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund at any time during the previous 18 months.

(6) Within five days after the end of the nomination period, the person nominated to be a director submits an application to the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund, signed under penalty of perjury, that attests to the person's satisfaction of all of the conditions specified in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive.

(e) The Travel Consumer Restitution Fund may not impose requirements for nomination to be a participant director in addition to the requirements described in subdivision (d).

(f) If a nominee does not satisfy the requirements of subdivision (d), the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund shall notify the nominee and the Attorney General in writing, within 30 days of the nominee's application, that the person has been rejected as a nominee and the specific grounds for the rejection.

(g) The nomination period shall be open for the period beginning 90 days and ending 30 days before the election. Any participant may nominate for election any participant who is eligible to serve as provided in subdivision (d).

(h) The Travel Consumer Restitution Fund shall enable nominees to submit, within 21 days before the election, written statements of up to 500 words in a reasonable format concerning their candidacy and shall mail those statements to participants in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund and make those statements publicly available no later than 14 days before the election by means that may include disseminating the information on an Internet Web site or providing the information by electronic mail to any person who has requested the information and provided a valid electronic mail address.

(i) A director who does not qualify to be a participant or who otherwise becomes unable to serve shall not continue to serve as director. The board of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall adopt rules setting forth the procedures to determine that a director is no longer able to serve as a director and for the board to elect a successor to serve as director until the next election.

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§ 17550.42. Fiscal year

The fiscal year of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall commence on July 1 of each year.

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§ 17550.42. Statement of information concerning most recently concluded fiscal year, minutes, bylaws and other information to be made publicly available; method of dissemination of information

(a) Within 30 days of the close of the fiscal year or other reasonable period established by the board of directors, the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall make publicly available a statement of the following information concerning the most recently concluded fiscal year:

(1) The number of claims and approximate dollar amount of the claims received.

(2) The total number of claims and total dollar amount of claims paid.

(3) The approximate number and dollar amount of claims denied or abandoned.

(4) The dollar balance in the restitution fund.

(5) The amount of assessments received from participants and the operating and administrative costs and expenses of the corporation.

(6) The number of new participants and the amount of assessments received from them.

(b) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall make publicly available within 15 days of the board of directors' approval, or other reasonable period established by the board of directors, the following information:

(1) The approved minutes of meetings of the board of directors.

(2) The approved estimated annual operational budget projecting the costs of operations and administration for the succeeding fiscal year, excluding the amount to be paid for claims.

(3) The approved bylaws, as amended, of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

(c) Information may be made publicly available as required by this section by disseminating the information on an Internet Web site or providing the information by electronic mail to any person who has requested the information and provided a valid electronic mail address.

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§ 17550.43. Operations fund; budget; initial assessment; restitution fund

(a) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall establish and maintain an operations fund for the payment of costs of operations and administration. The corporation shall prepare, prior to its fiscal yearend, an estimated annual operational budget projecting the costs of operations and administration for the succeeding fiscal year, excluding the amount paid for claims.

(b)(1) All participants making their initial payment of assessments shall pay to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation an initial, one-time seventy-five dollar ($75) assessment per location from which the participant does business in the state in order to provide additional funding for the operations of the corporation, as those operations are authorized by the corporation's board of directors.

(2) All participants making their initial payment of assessments shall pay to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation an initial, one-time two hundred dollar ($200) assessment per location from which the participant does business in this state in order to provide additional funding for the restitution fund.

(c) All participants who were sellers of travel in any year, and who did not pay a Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation assessment in that year shall, when making a payment of assessment in a subsequent year, pay the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation all assessments for the operations of the corporation and the restitution fund for the years in which they were in business as were billed and paid by participants in those years.

(d) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall establish a restitution fund for the payment of claims. All claims shall be paid from the restitution fund.

(1) The restitution fund shall be in the form of a trust account maintained in the State of California with a federally insured bank that shall be selected by the Board of Directors of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation and shall be approved by the office of the Attorney General. The Board of Directors of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation or its delegate shall serve as trustee.

(2) The restitution fund shall meet the following criteria:

(A) The trustee shall deposit all restitution funds received into the trust account.

(B) The trustee shall maintain a separate accounting for disbursements and collections on account of claims against each participant. Quarterly reports shall be provided to the office of the Attorney General, Consumer Law Section.

(C) The trustee shall disburse funds from the trust as directed by the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation pursuant to Section 17550.47.

(D) The trustee may only invest the operations fund and trust funds in any of the securities described in subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 16430 of the Government Code.

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§ 17550.44. Annual assessment; due date and late fee; restitution fund; emergency assessment

(a) In addition to the assessments required by Section 17550.43, the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall bill and collect from each participant an annual assessment that in the aggregate shall consist of assessments for the operations fund and the restitution fund. For each participant, the due date of that annual assessment shall be 30 days prior to the annual renewal date for registration pursuant to Section 17550.20 or 45 days after billing, whichever is later. For a participant registering for the first time, the assessments required by Section 17550.43 shall be due 10 days prior to the seller of travel doing business in this state. A late fee of five dollars ($5) per day, up to a maximum of five hundred dollars ($500), shall be paid for each day after the due date specified in this section until the assessment is paid.

(b) The annual assessment for the operations fund shall be determined no later than January 15 of each year for the next fiscal year in an amount that does not exceed the amount necessary to fund the operations and administration of the corporation, based upon the annual operational budget required by subdivision (a) of Section 17550.43, and shall become effective immediately. The annual assessment for the operations fund shall not exceed thirty-five dollars ($35) per year for each location in the state from which a participant does business.

(c) If, as of January 15 of any year, the balance in the restitution fund is less than one million six hundred thousand dollars ($1,600,000), the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall make an assessment of participants, up to a maximum amount of two hundred dollars ($200) for each location in the state from which a participant does business, to bring the restitution fund to an expected balance of one million six hundred thousand dollars ($1,600,000). Every participant's assessment shall be determined pro rata based upon the ratio of the number of locations in the state from which the participant does business to the total number of locations for all participants as of the preceding December 15.

(d) If, on May 1 or October 15 of any year, the balance in the restitution fund is less than nine hundred thousand dollars ($900,000), the corporation shall make an emergency assessment of participants, not more than twice per year, up to a maximum amount of one hundred fifty dollars ($150) per year for each location in the state from which the participant does business, for deposit in the trust account to return the level of the restitution fund to an expected balance of one million six hundred thousand dollars ($1,600,000). The corporation shall estimate the total cost of billing, collecting, and processing the emergency restitution fund assessment and shall assess and collect, together with the emergency restitution fund assessment, an emergency operations fund assessment that is in the aggregate sufficient to offset the estimated cost. Each participant's assessments shall be determined pro rata based upon the ratio of the number of locations in the state from which the participant does business to the total number of locations for all participants as of the first day of the preceding month. The board of directors shall adopt rules for the notification of emergency assessments.

(e) In addition to the assessments required by Section 17550.43 and subdivision (d), if at any time during the fiscal year the board of directors of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation determines that the operations fund will be insufficient to pay the costs of operations and administration for the current or next fiscal year, the corporation, as determined by the board of directors, shall do either or both of the following: (A) make an emergency assessment of participants, not more than once per fiscal year, up to a maximum amount of sixty-five dollars ($65) per year for each location in the state from which a participant does business. The emergency assessment may be billed and collected either on an emergency basis from all participants upon the making of the assessment, or in conjunction with each participant's annual assessment pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 17550.44, (B) transfer any or all interest earned on the Restitution Fund to the Operations Fund, provided that no transfer results in a restitution fund balance of less than one million two hundred thousand dollars ($1,200,000).

(f) The assessment required by subdivision (d) or (e) shall be due 45 days from the date the bill for that assessment is mailed by the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation. A late fee of five dollars ($5) per day, up to a maximum of five hundred dollars ($500), shall be paid for each day after the due date specified in this section until the assessment is paid.

(g) The Travel Consumer Restitution Fund shall report to the office of the Attorney General each levy of assessment within 10 business days after the levy.

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§ 17550.45. Failure to pay assessment; suspension of registration; action to recover unpaid assessment; costs and fees

(a) If any assessment is not paid within 60 days of the due date, then the corporation shall notify the office of the Attorney General, which shall forthwith suspend the registration of the participant who has not paid. The corporation shall provide a copy of this notification to the participant.

(b) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation or any entity set forth in Section 17204 may bring an action at law or in equity against a participant to recover any unpaid assessment.

(c) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall be awarded costs and reasonable attorney's fees if it prevails in any action against a participant pursuant to subdivision (b). Those costs and attorney's fees shall be awarded as an item of costs, as provided for in paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) and paragraph (5) of subdivision (c) of Section 1033.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

§ 17550.46. Claim form; information

(a) The Attorney General or his or her delegate shall approve any claim form which shall be provided to a person aggrieved by the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation to be submitted by a person aggrieved in order to obtain payment from the restitution fund. The claim form shall require the person aggrieved to provide the corporation with information which is sufficient to decide whether payment is to be made to that person. The information must include all of the following:

(1) The name, address, and telephone number of the person aggrieved.

(2) The date, form, and amount of each payment and evidence thereof.

(3) The amount of the claim and specific basis therefor.

(4) Any written agreements, correspondence, or other documentation relevant to the transaction and to the transportation or travel services which were purchased and not provided.

(5) Identification of the transportation or travel services which were purchased and not provided.

(6) Description of any payment or reimbursement or alternative transportation or travel services received by the person aggrieved for the transportation or purchased travel services which were not provided.

(b) If any required information is unavailable to the person aggrieved, the person shall so state in the claim form, explaining why the information is unavailable. The corporation may require any other additional information as may be necessary to decide the claim. Failure to provide any required information or documentation or an adequate explanation as to why the information is unavailable shall constitute grounds for denial of a claim.

(c) The person aggrieved who submits a claim form shall sign the form stating, under penalty of perjury pursuant to the laws of the State of California, that the information contained in the form and any statements by the person making the claim submitted therewith are true and correct.

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§ 17550.47. Filing claim; processing fee; deadline; limit on amount of recovery; decision on written record; denial; reconsideration; review

(a)(1) Any person aggrieved who suffers a loss of more than fifty dollars ($50) of amounts paid for air or sea transportation or travel services may file a claim with the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation by filing a claim form as required by Section 17550.46 and paying, by check or money order, a processing fee to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation in the amount of thirty-five dollars ($35). Any check for the processing fee that is returned unpaid to the corporation by the financial institution upon which it is drawn shall be returned to the claimant and the claim shall be rejected for filing. Any claimant whose claim is rejected may resubmit his or her claim upon payment of a processing fee of fifty dollars ($50).

(2) Any processing fee required by paragraph (1) shall be nonrefundable except where (A) a claim is denied on the basis as set forth in the statement of decision that either the seller of travel, at the time of sale, was not a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund or the seller of travel was not registered, or (B) the claim is granted in whole or in part. In either case, the processing fee shall be refunded to the person aggrieved upon denial or upon payment of the claim, whichever is applicable.

(3) In no event shall a person aggrieved have more than one year after the scheduled date of completion of travel within which to file a claim with the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund.

(b) A person aggrieved may recover from the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund an amount not to exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) per person aggrieved, not to exceed the amount paid to the participant by or on behalf of the person aggrieved for the transportation or travel services. Payments from the restitution fund shall be limited to restitution for sums paid for transportation or travel services and shall not include any other amounts, including, but not limited to, payment for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, travel insurance, lost luggage, or any consequential damages. The person aggrieved shall not be entitled to receive attorney's fees in connection with a filed claim or on appeal.

(c) All claims are to be decided on the written record before the corporation, with no hearing to be held. The record shall consist of a fully executed and complete claim form, any other documentation submitted by the claimant or the participant, and any documents or reports submitted by staff or the designated representative of the office of the Attorney General. Claims are to be decided within 45 days of receipt unless (1) the designated representative of the office of the Attorney General requests a continuance to obtain and submit information, or (2) the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation determines that additional information or documentation is required to decide the claim. In either case, the claim shall be decided within 45 days of receipt of all additional information or documentation. A claim not decided timely shall be deemed granted.

(d) Whenever the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation denies a claim in whole or in part, it shall provide to the claimant a written statement of decision setting forth the factual and legal basis for the denial.

(e) A claimant may request reconsideration of an adverse decision of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation by mailing a written request, accompanied by a processing fee of fifty dollars ($50) paid by check or money order, within 20 days of the date a notice of denial and statement of decision was mailed to the claimant. Any check for the processing fee that is returned unpaid to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation by the financial institution upon which it is drawn shall be returned to the claimant and the request for reconsideration shall not be determined until the claimant has paid the fifty dollar ($50) processing fee.

(f) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall, within 60 days of receipt of the request, either decide the request or advise the claimant that additional information or documentation is needed, and, if the decision is a denial in whole or in part, it shall provide to the claimant and seller of travel a written statement of decision setting forth the factual and legal basis for the decision. No appeal may be taken pursuant to subdivision (g) until reconsideration has been requested and decided. The claimant shall not be entitled to any attorney's fees incurred in connection with presentation of a claim or request for reconsideration.

(g) No decision of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation granting or denying a claim in whole or part shall be subject to review or appeal except as provided in this section. A claimant may seek review of the denial, in whole or part, of a claim by filing a notice of appeal after having served the notice by mail on the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation. The notice of appeal shall be filed and served on the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation not later than 30 days after a written statement of decision on a request for reconsideration has been mailed to the claimant. The notice of appeal from a decision of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall be filed with the clerk of the superior court either in the county in which the principal place of business of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation is located, or in the county in which the claimant was a resident at the time the claimant purchased the transportation or travel services in dispute.

(h) The claimant shall pay the same filing fee as is required for appeals from small claims court. The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall file its response and the record of the claim before the corporation with the clerk of the superior court within 30 days of the day the notice of appeal was served on the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

(i) Upon the filing of the record the clerk of the court shall schedule a hearing for the earliest available time and shall mail written notice of the hearing at least 14 days prior to the time set for the hearing.

(j) The hearing on appeal shall be limited to the record before the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation and any relevant evidence that could not have been with reasonable diligence submitted previously to the corporation. The reviewing court shall affirm the decision if it is supported by substantial evidence in light of the entire record. The pretrial discovery procedures described in Section 2019.010 of the Code of Civil Procedure are not permitted, there is no right to trial by jury, and the decision of the superior court shall be appealable by either party. No money may be claimed from or paid by the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund except in accordance with the provisions and procedures set forth in this article. No provision herein shall limit or otherwise affect those remedies as may be available against persons or entities other than the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

(k) If the claimant prevails in whole or in part on an appeal, the claimant shall not be entitled to an award in excess of the amount of the original claim.

(l) Any claim awarded by the corporation shall be paid promptly by the trustee of the restitution fund when the time for appeal has passed. Any judgment on appeal shall be paid promptly by the trustee of the restitution fund whenever the judgment becomes final. If there should be insufficient funds to pay a claim when otherwise due, claims shall be paid in the order received. If the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation ceases to operate pursuant to the terms of Section 17550.52, any remaining trust funds shall be allocated on a pro rata basis to claims accruing prior to the corporation ceasing to operate, after payment of outstanding debts and liabilities as provided in Section 17550.57.

(m) A claim shall require a majority of at least three affirmative votes for denial, otherwise it shall be deemed granted.

(n)(1) A director shall not participate in the decision of a claim if the director has a financial interest in the outcome of the decision, has a financial interest in or is employed by the seller of travel that is the subject of the claim, or has any familial relationship or close personal friendship with either the claimant or any owner, officer, director, or manager of the seller of travel that is the subject of the claim.

(2) The director shall disclose to the other directors before a claim is considered all matters that disqualify the director from participating in the decision of the claim as described in paragraph (1).

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§ 17550.48. Assignment of rights of recovery to restitution corporation

Any person aggrieved who recovers from the fund shall assign to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation all rights of recovery, to a maximum of the amount received from the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund, against any person or organization from which the person aggrieved received any payment as compensation for any loss for which restitution was paid from the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund. The person aggrieved shall execute and deliver to the corporation instruments and papers and perform any other acts necessary to carry out this section. The corporation shall have the authority and discretion to determine whether or not to seek recovery.

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§ 17550.49. Payment on claim against participant; revocation of registration; reregistration; recovery of amounts paid

If the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation directs that payment be made from the restitution fund in any amount in response to a claim against a participant, the corporation shall inform the office of the Attorney General and shall maintain a record of all claims paid from the fund. A list of those sellers of travel on whose account payment has been made from the fund shall be provided upon written request. The corporation shall have the authority and discretion to determine whether or not to seek recovery from a seller of travel of any amounts paid from the fund. The corporation may seek that recovery by any lawful means, including, but not limited to, debt collection or civil litigation. If the corporation seeks recovery, it shall be entitled to collect from any seller of travel against which action is taken all reasonable expenses incurred in taking the action, including attorney's fees. The corporation shall also be entitled to interest at the rate of 9 percent per year on the amount paid from the fund, together with all expenses and costs incurred by the corporation in connection with the claim.

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§ 17550.50. Personal liability for decision to deny claim

There shall be no personal liability on the part of and no cause of action of any nature shall arise against the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation or the directors, officers, employees, or agents of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation on any decision to deny a claim for payment from the restitution fund.

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§ 17550.51. Consequential or punitive damages

The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall not be liable for any consequential damages, or for any punitive damages, in connection with the performance of its restitution function.

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§ 17550.52. Restitution corporation; failure or cease of operations

The Attorney General or his or her delegate may determine that the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation has failed or ceased to operate upon a finding that any one of the following has occurred with respect to the corporation:

(a) Was not created.

(b) Has been dissolved.

(c) Has ceased to operate.

(d) Is insolvent or bankrupt.

(e) Has failed to pay its operating costs.

(f) Has failed to pay any claim or judgment in a timely manner.

(g) Has violated its articles of incorporation or any law of this state.

(h) Has invested its funds in violation of this article.

(i) Has not levied assessments as required by this article.

(j) Has not diligently decided upon a claim made by a person aggrieved.

(k) Has violated any section of this article.

(l) Has neglected or refused to submit its books, papers, and affairs to the inspection of the office of the Attorney General.

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§ 17550.53. Authority to investigate claims

(a) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall have independent authority to investigate claims filed by persons aggrieved pursuant to Section 17550.47.

(b) The corporation, upon the request of the office of the Attorney General, may participate in an examination or investigation of the books and records of a participant for the purpose of evaluating a claim related to that seller of travel. There shall be no liability on the part of, and no cause of action of any nature shall arise against, the State of California or any of its employees, agents, or representatives for the release of any information furnished to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation pursuant to this subdivision or in connection with the investigation or review of any claim.

(c) With the consent of a majority of its directors, the corporation, in order to fulfill its obligations under this article, may appoint an independent certified public accountant or public accountant or hire or appoint a specialized committee or employees to conduct an examination or investigation authorized by this section. Any reports as a result thereof shall be furnished to the office of the Attorney General.

(d) To assist the corporation in evaluating a claim related to a participant, the participant shall provide or make available for inspection by the corporation those books, accounts, bank account records, and files which are necessary for the corporation to evaluate the claim.

(e) The corporation, any participant, an agent of the corporation or any person other than a law enforcement agency who uses information obtained under this section for any purpose not authorized in this article or Article 2.6 (commencing with Section 17550) is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(f) Costs and expenses for any examination under this section shall be paid for by the participant if a claim directly related to that seller of travel has been approved and payment has been made to a person aggrieved. The corporation may maintain an action for recovery of these examination costs and expenses in any court of competent jurisdiction, and shall recover its reasonable costs and attorney's fees as an item of costs, as provided for in paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) and paragraph (5) of subdivision (c) of Section 1033.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

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§ 17550.54. Article of incorporation or amendments; bylaws or amendments; approval of attorney general

(a) The Secretary of State shall not file articles for the incorporation of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation or an amendment to the articles unless the office of the Attorney General has issued written approval of the articles or amendment.

(b) The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall not adopt any bylaws or amendments thereto without the written consent of the office of the Attorney General. If the office of the Attorney General does not approve or disapprove any bylaws or amendments within 60 days of receipt, such bylaws or amendments shall be deemed to be approved.

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§ 17550.55. Application of Insurance Code provisions to restitution corporation

No provision of the Insurance Code shall apply to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

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§ 17550.56. Operation of restitution corporation subject to examination and review of attorney general

The operation of the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation shall at all times be subject to the examination and review of the office of the Attorney General and its duly designated representatives. The office of the Attorney General and its duly designated representatives may at any time investigate the affairs and examine the books, accounts, record, and files used by the corporation. The office of the Attorney General and its duly designated representatives shall have free access to the offices, books, accounts, papers, records, files, safes, and vaults of the corporation.

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§ 17550.57. Distribution of net assets upon dissolution or cessation of restitution corporation

If the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation is dissolved or ceases to exist, or if the Attorney General or his or her delegate makes a determination pursuant to Section 17550.52 that the corporation has failed or ceased to operate, all outstanding debts, obligations of the corporation, and amounts due for services rendered shall first be paid from the remaining assets, including the restitution fund. The assets remaining after settling all those liabilities shall be distributed to the participants, less the costs of that distribution. The distribution to participants shall be pro rata based upon the ratio of the number of locations in the state from which the participant does business to the total number of locations for all registered participants at the time the corporation is dissolved or ceases to exist.

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§ 17550.58. Costs and expenses of administration

All costs and expenses incurred by the Department of Justice in the administration of this article, including those incurred pursuant to Section 17550.38, shall be paid to the department by the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation. The department may institute an action for the recovery of costs and expenses incurred in the administration of this article in any court of competent jurisdiction.

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§ 17550.59. Repealed by Stats.2003, c. 196 (S.B.736), § 13

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