Consumer Connect: 'Unfair Terms Of Tour Companies Are Not Binding On Consumers,' Says Expert

Consumer Connect: 'Unfair Terms Of Tour Companies Are Not Binding On Consumers,' Says Expert

The questions are answered by Adv. Shirish V. Deshpande, Chairman – Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, May 27, 2024, 11:47 AM IST
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Consumer Connect | FPJ

I booked a Far East tour for myself and my family in January 2024 and paid the full cost, including visa fees. The tour was scheduled for the third week of April. In the first week of April, the travel firm informed me that the tour was cancelled. It offered to accommodate us in a subsequent tour in May. Since the revised schedule was not suitable for us, I demanded a full refund. However, the company has offered to refund the tour cost after deducting taxes and visa charges. The company's terms and conditions say that in case the company cancels the tour, it will refund the tour cost less visa fees and taxes. Do I have a remedy?

Sudhanshu Bose, Shivaji Park

Normally when people book tours, they are expected to read the terms and conditions, particularly about cancellation and refund. The tour companies make the travellers sign on terms and conditions that are binding on both parties. However, it is common knowledge that many companies take undue advantage of gullible consumers and include onesided, arbitrary terms and conditions. In your case, if the tour is cancelled, you are not at fault. Any contract containing such a term will constitute an “unfair contract” as defined in Clause 2(46) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The CPA has taken care to protect the interest of consumers by empowering the state and national consumer commissions to declare such unfair terms as null and void under Sections 49(2) and 59 (2).

My father and uncle had one flat each measuring 500 square feet in Mahalaxmi. The building went for re-development in 2011 and the builder offered us two flats measuring 650sqft on the 21st floor in lieu of the old flats. There was a long delay. The builder paid us rent up to December 2015 and defaulted thereafter. He later changed the plans and informed us that he won’t be able to construct the 21st floor and would not be able to give us flats. He paid us the price of the two flats after a lot of negotiations, legal notice, etc, in December 2021. He also agreed to pay us outstanding transit rent up to December 2021. However, he did not pay and hence we filed a complaint in MahaRERA. He then agreed to pay us outstanding rent of Rs34 lakh on the condition that we withdraw the complaint from MahaRERA and paid an instalment of Rs3 lakh. We therefore withdrew the complaint. However, thereafter, he has defaulted again despite legal notice from our side. In such circumstances can we again file a complaint to recover the balance rent of Rs31 lakh?

Jasmine Merchant, Mahalaxmi

I am sure while withdrawing your case from MahaRERA you have some evidence to show that the builder agreed to pay you the outstanding transit rent up to December 2021 amounting to Rs34 lakh. Since the builder has gone back on his promised terms, which formed the basis of your withdrawal of your complaint in MahaRERA, you can certainly file your complaint again for the outstanding rent of Rs31 lakh. However, since your father and uncle being the rehab members and not homebuyers in the project, pursuing the complaint in MahaRERA will be full of legal objections.

As of date, MahaRERA has been taking a stand that there is no RERA protection to rehab members. Hence it is also quite possible that MahaRERA may decline to entertain this complaint. This view of MahaRERA has been challenged in the high court by many and the decision on this crucial point is awaited. Hence it will be safer for you to file a complaint in the appropriate consumer commission to claim the balance rent amount with interest.

(Advocate Shirish V. Deshpande is the chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat. Queries may be sent to shirish50@yahoo.com)

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