Crash landing for former travel agent
6 April 2017
A Mudgeeraba woman was today ordered to pay more than $36,000 in fines and restitution by the Southport Magistrates Court after being charged by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for breaching the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Joanne Margaret Day, director of liquidated company Getaway Escapes Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to 139 charges relating to false and misleading representations, and failure to supply services paid for by consumers.
Ms Day was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $6,985.75 back to affected consumers.
After receiving complaints from consumers nationwide, the OFT commenced an investigation into Getaway Escapes Pty Ltd, a telephone marketing and sales business which offered discounted domestic flights and accommodation packages.
The court heard Getaway Escapes would cold call consumers, offering discounted accommodation and domestic flights. Getaway Escapes failed to disclose certain accommodation purchases were required to access the discounted flights. In other instances, consumers were misled about the type or length of accommodation that needed to be booked to secure flight discounts.
Further, Getaway Escapes claimed consumers were protected by the Travel Compensation Fund (a fund which ceased to exist after 30 June 2014), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which provided no insurance or guarantee in relation to consumer refunds. Getaway also made false claims to consumers about refunds being held in a Government trust account.
The court further heard Getaway Escapes were not only failing to confirm bookings with accommodation providers prior to consumers arriving for stays, but also failing to pass on payments.
In sentencing, the court considered investigative findings that indicated Ms Day directed staff to not inform consumers of their rights, and avoid making disclosures to consumers about exclusions and extra fees, unless specifically asked.
Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer encouraged Queenslanders to confirm bookings made through travel intermediaries directly with the airline and accommodation provider, prior to starting their holiday.
“Verifying a booking prior to travel may prevent any unexpected fees, payments or last minute stress,” Mr 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.”
Consumers can make a complaint about a trader and find information on their consumer
rights at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.