I read the news reports that the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has directed Kesari Tours to refund 461 consumers their entire amounts paid for the tours that got cancelled during Covid along with 9% interest per annum. I understand that there are many more such consumers whose money has not been refunded by Kesari Tours. Instead, the company is insisting that they pick future tours. Still if anyone demands a refund then the firm is deducting 25%. Will the CCPA order benefit all such consumers as well?
Abhay Datar, Girgaum
The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) had filed a complaint against Kesari Tours before the CCPA on behalf of all the Kesari consumers, who were denied refund for the tours cancelled due to Covid. It was a 'class action' complaint under the Consumer Protection Act. Reliefs granted in such cases are applicable to the entire 'class of consumers' who are similarly affected. The CCPA order, dated November 28, 2023, (paragraph 28) read, “Refusal to give refund to the consumers whose tours were cancelled due to lockdown amounts to violation of consumer right to get full refund, besides being a gross unfair trade practice.” The CCPA also labelled imposing/recovering rescheduling charges for future tours, levying 25% cancellation charges or any exorbitant cancellation charges for refund, issuing credit shells thereby restricting consumers to book their tickets from Kesari only and denying refund as unfair trade practices.
The CCPA has issued the following directions to Kesari Tours: (i) To refund the entire amounts deposited by 461 consumers along with 9% interest per annum from dates of respective payments till the actual payment. (ii) To refund the exorbitant cancellation charges recovered from all the consumers. (iii) To refund the amounts forfeited from those who had paid only initial advance amounts. (iv) To refund rescheduling charges recovered from the consumers for undertaking future trips. (v) To refrain permanently from insisting consumers against their wish to undertake future tours to adjust the refund amount.
Hence, it's clear from the order that the directive to refund money with 9% interest per annum applies to 461 consumers who had approached MGP and whose names were produced by MGP before the CCPA. As per the order, all other similarly circumstanced Kesari consumers shall also be entitled to get their refund, advance amounts which were forfeited, exorbitant cancellation charge and rescheduling charges recovered from them, but without interest.
I am one of the 461 consumers on whose behalf MGP had filed a complaint against Kesari Tours. How should I claim the refund?
I would like to clarify that MGP had filed this complaint against Kesari Tours before CCPA not only for 461 consumers but for and on behalf of all Kesari consumers, who were denied refunds for the cancelled tours. You need not immediately rush to Kesari office to claim the refund. The company has been given four weeks time to comply with the CCPA's order. We will have to wait and see if it's complying with the order or appealing against it.
Adv Shirish V Deshpande, Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat