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Need watchdog for tourism sector

This is one of the earliest cases against a travel agent that came up before the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2009 01:03 IST

This is one of the earliest cases against a travel agent that came up before the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

K. Senthilrajan, who was going to Singapore for an entrance examination, was assured that he had confirmed tickets. However, his travel agent’s claim turned out to be false and he had to spend all his money to buy an executive class ticket at the airport, so that he could reach Singapore in time for the examination.

On his return, the airline said he could not use the return ticket originally bought through the travel agent, as he had not used it for the onward journey.

With no money in hand (there were no international credit cards or cell phones then), Senthilrajan threatened to commit suicide and was finally allowed to use the return ticket, but after six days of waiting.

I have received a number of letters from readers on the issue of negligence of travel agencies and tour operators.

Unfortunately, there is no Ombudsman to resolve such issues. If tourism is to flourish as an industry, there should not only be stringent quality standards for all service providers, but also a scheme of Ombudsman to resolve disputes between consumers and service providers.

Mr Pankaj Goel asks: My travel agent made a wrong hotel booking (18 kms from the conference venue in Boston, USA). On telling her she penalised me 15,000 INR as cancellation charges. This was double trouble as I had to make my own booking at the last moment.

Answer: This is a clear case of negligence and you must file a complaint before a consumer forum to get back your money. Your plea should include not only the cancellation charges but also any additional amount that you had to spend on booking another hotel.

You can also ask for compensation for harassment and inconvenience that you underwent as a result and any other additional expenses you incurred. Consumer forums also provide compensation for a ruined holiday and, of course, cost of litigation.

In the case of Arnab Kr Sarkar Vs M/S Seema Travels (RP NO 2130 of 2000) the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission observed: "If a holiday is ruined by virtue of breach of contract on the part of the tour operator, damages can be recovered in respect of the distress, disappointment and inconvenience suffered by the consumer".

I would suggest that consumers also take adequate precautions while hiring the services of travel agents and tour operators. If you go on to the union tourism ministry’s website (http://.tourism.nic.in) and click on the icon that says 'approved list', you will get a list of travel agents and tour operators approved by the ministry. That's a good way to start.

And before you make the payment, check the cancellation and refund policy of the travel agent, hotels where your accommodation is booked and travel / transport services hired for your journey.

Do you have any problems? Send in your queries to pgirimaji@gmail.com