A former Queensland travel agent has been fined more than $36,000 for breaching Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Pleading guilty to 139 charges relating to false and misleading representations, and failure to supply services paid for by consumers, Joanne Margaret Day of now liquidated Getaway Escapes, will pay $30,000 in fines as well as $6,985.75 to affected consumers.
During the trial, Southport Magistrates Court heard that Getaway Escapes would offer discounted accommodation and domestic flights during cold calls to consumers.
After complaints were registered nationwide, the Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated the telephone marketing and sales business before bringing it to court.
As well as misleading consumers about the type of accommodation that needed to be booked to secure flight discounts, Getaway Escapes claimed consumers would be protected by the Travel Compensation Fund (that ceased to exist after 30 June 2014), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which provided no guarantee in relation to consumer refunds.
The company also failed to pass on payments for bookings and failed to confirm reservations with accommodation providers prior to consumers arriving for stays.
Additionally, Ms Day told staff not to inform consumers of their rights and avoid offering certain information unless specifically asked.
“Verifying a booking prior to travel may prevent any unexpected fees, payments or last minute stress,” Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said.
“Holidays can be a significant financial commitment, so the last thing a consumer needs is to be left out of pocket because a travel intermediary has failed to pass on their payments.
“Be cautious when dealing with cold call marketing businesses, and always ask for the full terms and conditions to be provided to you in writing before agreeing to anything.”