Those stung by the fake tickets issued by liquidated agency Travel Globe are the latest - but, sadly, unlikely the last - to fly into a situation which should have had warning lights flashing over it.
The bust travel agency was issuing fake plane tickets for more than six months, a liquidator says, leaving many people stranded overseas or forced to buy expensive, last-minute airfares.
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Manurewa travel agency Travel Globe Ltd folded on January 8 and liquidator Imran Kamal says he's "extremely" concerned with what he uncovered. Travel Globe customers were issued with fake tickets and itineraries dating back to at least August last year, he said.
Often they only discovered this a week or two before their travel date when they contacted the airline themselves and had to pay again for last-minute fares.
According to one former client, Travel Globe were issuing airfares at $100-$200 less than competitors. This, as well as not being a member of the Travel Agents' Association of New Zealand, should have tipped off potential customers. Any other similar offerings should also be given a healthily sceptical look.
This is not to excuse the behaviour of any trader who fails to meet basic principles of scruples and propriety. Any such businesses and their directors should be held accountable by every means necessary.
Just over the Tasman, Australia's Federal Court this week found travel comparison site Trivago guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought the charges against Trivago for suggesting its first-placed prices on properties were the best. Hotels were, in reality, ranked based on how much commission each paid Trivago.
Trivago was found to have not suggested the best prices. In fact, the best prices were filtered out of its list.
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Travellers deserve better than the practices such as exposed this week, and it is some reassurance that they have been rumbled. However, it is too late for those left out for pocket.
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin wants better regulation of the travel industry and, given the unsavoury practices outed this week, this may warrant a look. But let's use the regulatory tools we have first, as well as apply personal responsibility.
Last year, a Commerce Commission spokesperson said the watchdog was working to stamp out misleading "pressure tactics" used by retailers to rush customers into purchasing online.
Antonia Horrocks said particular attention would be paid to phrasing such as "only five rooms left", "the offer finishes in 24 hours" with a countdown or "[insert name] from Auckland just bought", often used by comparison sites.
These outlets commonly deploy tactics to make an offer look too good to pass up. As ever, if a deal looks too good to be true - then it most likely isn't.