Thomas Cook asked to reimburse Rs 3.18L, compensate Hyderabad client with Rs 1.20L

The complainants paid Rs. 3,18,000 advance on October 22, 2018, to organize the vacation, which cost them Rs 53,000 per person

Thomas Cook asked to reimburse Rs 3.18L, compensate Hyderabad client with Rs 1.20L

HYDERABAD: Tourist agency Thomas Cook has been directed by the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission of Hyderabad to reimburse an advance payment of Rs. 3,18,000 and pay Rs. 1,20,000 for causing mental agony and suffering to a Hyderabad family

Rajeev Khandelwal, a Manikonda resident in the city, enquired Thomas Cook to plan a holiday destination journey to Scandinavia, Russia for a 15-day scheduled tour beginning May 5 and ending May 16, 2020, with his five family members. The tour costs a total of Rs. 3,45,135 per person, including 5 percent GST.

The complainants paid Rs. 3,18,000 advance on October 22, 2018, to organize the vacation, which cost them Rs 53,000 per person. However, immediately after making the advance payment, the entire world began to fear a COVID19 pandemic, which began to spread over the globe.

Given the circumstances, the complainants decided to cancel the tour in the first week of February, 2020, and were in discussions with the agency to do so. Khandelwal sent an email to the agency seeking refund of the payment.

On March 19, 2020, Thomas Cook responded to the email asserting that cancellation was not possible and suggesting that the complainants reschedule their trip to future dates for a low fee, which must also occur within six months of the scheduled date.

The complainants further claimed that due to the pandemic scenario, travelling to other countries was a serious risk. They also informed the agency that all international flights from India had been canceled during the months of April and May 2020, and hence their request for cancellations.

However, the agency overlooked any request and responded to the email on April 19, 2020, stating that the Complainants must pay an additional sum of Rs. 1,17,999 for tour cancellation and that the amount paid towards advance booking was forfeited.

The complainants under constrained circumstances, sent a demand notice on August 11, 2020 to the agency, but it neither replied to the said notice nor refunded any amount to the complainants, indicating a deficiency in the service provided by the travel agency.

Under challenging circumstances, the complainants sent a demand notice to the agency on August 11, 2020; nevertheless, the agency did not respond to the notification or refund any money to the complainants, indicating deficiency in the service.

The agency denied all allegations levelled against their company, claiming that China had been experiencing the worst Covid-19 outbreak since September 2019. However, the complainants booked the vacation on October 22, 2019, despite being aware of the COVID outbreak.

The group flight schedule had been confirmed on international airlines, and it was also confirmed that all other passengers were travelling on the same schedule as that of the complainants, but they were determined to change their travel plans for their own reasons, which they claimed were not the fault of this travel agency. They further stated that the complainants only paid Rs. 3,45,135 as per the payment terms and conditions, not the entire tour cost.

The agency claimed that they informed the complainants that cancellation was not possible, but that they could reschedule the holiday to later dates for a nominal fee if done within six months of the scheduled date, but that the complainants were unable to travel.

Thomas Cook further argued that there was no lack of service because it had to incur fees / expenses on behalf of the travellers in buying air tickets, arranging Visas, and so on. Since, the services for the group tour were pre-blocked, the agency was still obligated to pay the agreed-upon prices, including penalties, to its suppliers even if the services were cancelled.

According to the consumer court, despite the fact that the Complainants were fearing for their lives and requested the agency to cancel the tour in the month of February 2020, and Thomas Cook themselves were unable to operate any outbound tours until May 15, 2020, demanding Khandelwals to pay Rs.1,09,870 plus GST, without providing any details of the charges under different heads, was nothing more than a deficiency of services on the part of the agency.

As a result, the court directed the opposing party to refund the advance money of Rs. 3,18,000 and to pay Rs.53,000 to each of the family members of Khandelwal, with interest at six percent per annum from the date of payment of the advance amount, which was October 22, 2019, until the date of realisation. The court further ordered Thomas Cook to pay an appropriate compensation of Rs.20,000 to each complainant, a total of Rs.1,20,000, for the mental agony and sufferings inflicted by the opposing party within 45 days of February 13, 2023.

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