Travel Agents

Investigation underway after consumers unable to claw back $200K in refunds from Facebook travel agency

More than 200 travellers have been left in the lurch after forking out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Facebook travel agency which failed to deliver.

According to the Western Australian government’s Consumer Protection division, Travel 2 Go and No Frills Travel received over $200,000 from customers in return for cheap flights or holiday deals.

However, affected consumers either could not get plane tickets for their desired dates or were asked to pay extra money, and some flew to their destination but found they were not booked on return flights as expected.

WA’s Consumer Protection said that despite the operators of Travel 2 Go and No Frills Travel making a commitment to pay back customers during negotiations, they have not followed through.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe said an investigation is now underway.

“In August 2019, Consumer Protection saw an increase in complaints from consumers who had purchased discount return flights – Perth to Bali for $99, for example – via a travel agent on Facebook, and then not been able to get seats on a plane,” she said.

“This escalated and Consumer Protection attended a public meeting of about 100 affected consumers in South Yunderup on 7 September 2019.

“We now have in excess of 210 complaints with a total dollar value of more than $200,000. This includes some people who have bought cruises or package holidays.

Consumer Protection’s conciliation officers have been working to try to achieve a satisfactory outcome for the complainants, but Lipscombe conceded it wasn’t always possible to secure refunds and there is no guarantee goods or services will be provided.

“Whether or not Consumer Protection is successful in conciliation depends on factors, including a trader’s willingness to participate in the process and the financial situation – funds may not be available,” she said.

Consumer Protection is in the process of contacting all of the Travel 2 Go/No Frills Travel complainants to inform them that no refunds are forthcoming, and to advise them of their option to go to the Magistrates Court to seek a court order for any money owed.

“We recommend customers do not pay additional money in a bid to secure flights or holidays,” Lipscombe said.

The commissioner said the latest development in this case was disappointing, but does not signal the end of the matter.

“If a business has allegedly made false and misleading representations or failed to provide goods or services as promised and within the timeframe specified, Consumer Protection can investigate potential breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL),” Lipscombe said.

“So, even though attempts to seek redress for consumers may not work out, we have investigators who can then take over and look at alleged non-compliance with the ACL.

“While any such investigation is underway, we are restricted as to what we can say publicly for legal reasons. What I can confirm is that this particular situation has been raised with the WA Police Major Fraud Squad.”

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