Consumer forum calls out travel firm on deducting ‘exorbitant’ cancellation charge
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The Bandra Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum recently directed a tour organising firm and its agent to pay Rs 25,000 as compensation to a customer after they deducted over 70 percent of the amount he paid for a European tour as cancellation charges.

The customer had paid an advance of Rs 81,000 to the company, of which it deducted Rs 57,800 and refunded only around Rs 23,000. The trip had to be cancelled as the visa for the UK was rejected by the country’s consulate.

The company had cited its cancellation clause wherein a table gave a percentage of cancellation charges depending on how many days prior to the tour the cancellation was made. The company said that it is mentioned in clear-cut terms that cancellation may be due to any reason, but the company is not liable to pay any compensation, damages or interest. As per the clause, they said the cancellation charge would be more, but they have deducted much less as a goodwill gesture.

The commission said, “The question which falls for consideration is, whether the opponent can take shelter of the cancellation clause for deducting exorbitant amounts.” The consumer forum added that prima facie, the terms of agreement appear to be one-sided.

Further, referring to delays on the company’s part to send documents concerning rejection of the visa and change of flight dates, the commission said that they should not have insisted upon strict application of cancellation clause.

“Even if there is an agreement, it is seen that the terms of agreement are unilateral favouring one party,” it said.

About the clause, which said that the company shall not be liable to pay any compensation, interest or damages, the consumer forum said that the clause deprives the complainant of the valuable legal right to seek redress in a court of law and is therefore, prima facie unjust and illegal.

It also said that it appears that the opponent took undue advantage of unilateral terms in the booklet, therefore this is a case of unjust enrichment and that in its opinion, they have committed unfair trade practice.

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