Should you believe everything you're told by port lecturers on cruise ships? The question is in the spotlight this week in the wake of a legal settlement between the state of Alaska and three companies that provide lecturers for cruise lines.
Florida-based Onboard Media, Royal Media Partners and PPI Group on Monday agreed to have their on-board lecturers clearly disclose to passengers that they are being paid to tout specific stores in port talks. The companies also agreed that their lecturers wouldn't disparage stores that refuse to pay to be mentioned in onboard presentations.
Under terms of the settlement, port lecturers are not allowed to say or suggest that stores that aren't paying them are "risky" or "unsafe."
The agreement also requires port lecturers to read the following script at the start of every talk: "My name is (name goes here) and I am your Port Lecturer [or other title]. The retailers you hear about in today's presentation have paid a fee to be included in the shopping program, and many of the retailers also pay commissions that are based on their sales to passengers."
The settlement sets up a mechanism by which the state can monitor whether port lecturers are following such rules. For the upcoming 2013 cruise season in Alaska, the three companies will be required to collect video and audio recordings of all onboard port talks for analysis by the state's attorney general. Companies that don't follow the rules will be subject to fines of up to $50,000 per violation.
The settlement also requires the companies to pay more than $200,000 to the state of Alaska but includes no admission of wrongdoing.
In a statement sent to USA TODAY, Onboard Media's vice president, Noelle Sipos, says the settlement simply formalizes policies that it always has followed.
"Onboard Media has been at the forefront of creating and managing business practices that comply with both the spirit and letter of the (Alaska Consumer Protection Act)," Sipos says. "We are pleased that the standards that Onboard Media has always followed have now been formalized in this agreement. Onboard Media is committed to complying with all the rules and regulations, and upholding high ethical standards as the foundation of our business practices."
PPI Group issued a press release that said the company was pleased with the agreement and looking forward to demonstrating its commitment to fulfilling all of the expectations noted in the agreement.
"We hold the integrity of our program at a very high level," PPI Group CEO Bill Panoff says in the press release. "Striving for excellence is what we do, and we intend to remove any ambiguity out of the equation, ensuring that all Alaska retailers, whether participating or not, feel confident about the upcoming season."
A representative for Royal Media Partners could not immediately be reached for comment.
Copies of the settlements between the state of Alaska and the three companies are located HERE.
Source: Gene Sloan, USA Today
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