Stop this travel fraud

Unauthorised cancellation of air tickets is something unheard off. It caught the whole community unawares when they themselves or their friends and relatives were told, some at the check-in counters, that their e-tickets had been cancelled and hence they no longer had valid documents entitling them for travel.

But they had fully paid for the tickets and had not cancelled the tickets. It took them a long while to understand that someone else without being authorized could cancel the tickets on their behalf and even pocket their monies.

That’s fraud, cheating. How it could be, they wondered.

Cheenu Srinivasan paid Value World Travel Pty Ltd (VWT), a highly advertised discount travel agency, for Singapore Airlines tickets to travel to India later this year on  24 December.

“We have used their services in the past; we had no reason to suspect any foul play.   But on the evening of Friday 6 November, we learnt that the travel agency had gone under.

“On checking with Singapore Airlines the next day, we were advised that our tickets were ”˜refunded’ on 5 November. We were advised that we had no firm booking and our tickets had not been paid for. Since we, the travelling consumer, had not cancelled nor sought the refund from Singapore Airlines, it is clear that company/companies who had issued the tickets had cashed in the refund,” Cheenu wrote to Victor Dominello, Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation.

Another traveller, Aditya Prasad, had planned his honeymoon in Spain. He also found his tickets had been cancelled and refunded without his authorization.

It has happened to so many people; some had urgent matters to attend to, weddings, sickness in family etc. Whoever is responsible has indeed been very irresponsible.

Arvind Chaudhary from Westleigh had booked tickets for his wife and daughter to attend a family wedding. Just one day before the travel day, he heard the rumours. He was shocked when he found out that these were true. Arvind had to buy very expensive last minute tickets.

There are allegedly more than 2,000 such tickets that have been cancelled and the refunds pocketed. There are many customers who are considering class action.

According to a NSW Fair Trading spokesperson, Value World Travel was placed into liquidation on November 5, 2015.  As a result of this action, Fair Trading is no longer in a position to mediate disputes between the parties.   In these circumstances  consumers should contact the liquidator to register as an unsecured creditor: Jirsch Sutherland & Co, Level 4, 55 Hunter Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 Ph: 9236 8333 E:

Consumers who have paid by credit card are advised to contact their financial institution to make enquires about whether they are eligible to apply for a credit card chargeback.

Consumers can also check their travel insurance policy. It is, however, understood by Fair Trading that these circumstances are unlikely to be covered.

The Value World Travel had been in business in Australia for a few years now. The Australian Securities & Investments (ASIC) records indicate that  Value  World Travel changed its company directors on 29 October 2015 and the company was now placed Under External Administration and/or Controller Appointed  i.e. appointed Liquidator (Creditors Voluntary Winding Up).

It is alleged that some persons earlier associated with VWT were living a decadent life style, travelling in stretch limousines and throwing extravagant parties while they had in the past liquidated another business. ASIC had banned two former directors from managing companies following an investigation which revealed they had failed to meet their legal obligations.

There is an urgent need for the Minister to intervene and tighten consumer laws to weed out actions of such unscrupulous business people. There are many questions to be answered, according to Cheenu Srinivasan:

  • How did the airlines allow large number of refunds to be affected without letting their passengers know?
  • What consumer protection do we have when we have paid the travel agent and have been issued an E-ticket only to be invalidated?
  • Did any of these monies get repatriated overseas without due vetting by the banks and prudential authorities?
  • Are the VWT owners/directors in Australia or have they decamped. If they are overseas and Australian citizens, when would they be brought back to face the courts?
  • How and when would the culprits face the full force of the law?
  • When would the victims of this fraud be compensated?

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