A former Cairns travel agent and his company have been ordered to pay more than $80,000 in fines and consumer compensation for failing to supply travel services.
Dominique Jean Marie Gerson, sole director of travel agency 2 Frogz In Oz, trading as Rendez-Vous Fute, was found guilty of nine charges of failing to supply services to consumers by the Cairns Magistrates Court last week after being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
Gerson and his company were fined $15,000 and $45,000 respectively, and ordered to pay $21,345 in compensation to six affected consumers, as well as $99 in court fees. Convictions were recorded against both Gerson and 2 Frogz In Oz.
The matter was heard ex-parte. Gerson, who is a French citizen, had appeared in court for an earlier mention of these charges but is now residing in France.
The court heard that between November 2017 and February 2018, Rendez-Vous Fute accepted payments from consumers for holiday tours, vehicle hire and accommodation.
In April 2018, customers were advised by email by a Rendez-Vous Fute employee that the company had ceased to trade and that the director had moved to France. Despite repeated attempts, the consumers were unable to contact Gerson or obtain refunds.
In sentencing, Magistrate Alan Comans said business operators need to fulfil their obligations in providing services. He noted that the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) was there to protect consumers, who had paid in good faith, from unscrupulous traders who did not fulfil their obligations.
OFT acting executive director Craig Turner said it was very disappointing that the travel agency had ignored its obligations under the ACL.
“These consumers had their travel plans wrecked and were left considerably out of pocket,” he said.
“The OFT will continue to ensure that businesses which are found to be doing the wrong thing face appropriate enforcement action.”