“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.”
Perth mother Ros Munro bought tickets for her family to travel from Perth to Bali during school holidays after seeing the deal online.
“I put in for school holidays for three years because obviously a lot of people have school children,” she said.
“Then all of a sudden, around July, people were told the tickets were no good for school holidays anymore so that pretty much rendered them useless for a lot of people.
“People have been trying to get their money back for quite some time now and it’s not happened.”
Ms Munro said while some of her tickets worked, others didn’t.
“We had a couple of trips out of it but some people who were supposed to be travelling with us didn’t and it’s terrible, it became really bad,” she said.
“Some people have booked packages to Japan and Fiji, some people have booked cruises, so some people were out quite substantial amounts of money, in the tens of thousands of dollars.
“There was a group of people I know that got to Bali and they went to the airport to return home to Perth and they didn’t have tickets.
“I’ve heard that a lady was stranded in London.”
Another woman claimed she paid for a Royal Caribbean cruise, only to find out through the cruise company there was no reservation in her name.
Consumer Protection said the travel companies had made a commitment to pay back customers, but “regrettably this hasn’t happened”.
The watchdog is now in the process of contacting all of the complainants to tell them they will need to seek a court order to try and get a refund.
Ms Lipscombe said the investigation into the travel agency was ongoing.
“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,” she 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.”
Affected consumers who have not yet lodged a complaint should still do so, using the online form at www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au for Consumer Protection’s records.
Consumer Protection’s tips for buying travel
- Consider paying with a credit card – it might attract a small percentage surcharge but could be worth it due to the ‘chargeback’ option if you don’t get what you paid for within the agreed timeframe, or if the business becomes insolvent. This option doesn’t exist for cash or direct bank transfer.
- Use an accredited travel agent. While there is no licensing of travel agents (that ceased nationally in 2015), there are voluntary industry accreditation schemes, such as ATAS run by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents: www.atas.com.au.
- Read the terms and conditions of any agreement, get a copy in writing and ask for a receipt. You may wish to check payments have been passed on to third party suppliers such as an airline. A voucher or itinerary does not secure your travel – insist on formal documentation or confirmation from the supplier(s) and verify its authenticity.
Heather McNeill covers general news for WAtoday with a focus on crime and courts; and Aboriginal affairs.