Guwahatians dragging tour operators to the consumer court
GUWAHATI: Faced with inconveniences during their trips, many travellers from the city are dragging tour operators to the consumer court in Guwahati. The complaints against travel agencies range from overcharging on tickets to failing to arrange for alternative arrangements in case of cancelled or delayed flights and trains among others.
In a recent case which reached the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC), a Guwahati resident filed a complaint against a tour agency demanding a compensation of Rs. 3.18 lakhs from the tour operator.
In his complaint, the complainant mentioned that he had booked an e-ticket from Jorhat to Guwahati and further from Guwahati to Kolkata for Rs. 12,153 to attend “an important business trip.” He had also booked return tickets from the travel agency Blue Sky Tour. However, to his surprise, on his return journey he was informed that the Jet Airways flight was delayed by more than two hours owing to bad weather and he was later told that the airlines cancelled the flight and has decided to merge passengers of two flights together.
Further, the airlines officials informed him that instead of a direct flight from Kolkata to Jorhat, the passengers would be taken via Guwahati. He was told that the flight from Kolkata will land at Guwahati and the flight to Jorhat would not depart without taking the passengers landing at Guwahati. But when he reached Guwahati, the flight to Jorhat had already departed.
He then contacted Blue Sky Tour and asked them to arrange for an alternative arrangement to reach Jorhat. Following this, the travel agency arranged for a flight from Guwahati to Kolkata and a subsequent flight from Kolkata to Jorhat the next day.
The complainant said that since it was imperative for him to reach Jorhat for an important business trip, he had to hire a car to Jorhat and incurred an expense of Rs. 8,000 in the process. He then filed for a compensation for negligence, deficiency in service, loss of goodwill of business, mental agony, travel expenses and cost of litigation.
SCDRC officials told G Plus that hearing of the case was still ongoing at the consumer court.
Consumer courts are meant to handle cases related to consumer grievances and disputes in order to protect consumer rights. The officials at the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF) mentioned that they now receive at least five such cases on an average in a month while they hardly registered any case against tour operators till around five years ago.
“Most of these cases are registered under ‘negligence of service’ and in many cases, the customers have also received due compensation,” president of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Mohammad Sahadat Hussain informed G Plus.
Airline companies face the ire
Further, apart from tour and travel agencies, the state and district consumer courts have been witnessing rising number of cases against airline companies, too.
Customers knock the doors of the consumer court for reasons like airline authorities denying boarding to passengers, overcharging the customers, excessive delay in flight time.
In a recent case, a city resident approached the DCDRC after he was not allowed to board his flight without being given any legitimate reason for the same.
“The customer was denied boarding even after he possessed a legitimate ticket. Sometimes the airline companies say that the seats are full when the customers had already booked their tickets in advance. This gives rise to confusion and trouble for passengers,” said Mohammad Sahadat Hussain, President DCDRC.
In another similar case, a customer was stopped from boarding the aircraft and was told that he did not report before the boarding time while he had already completed his security check before time, informed authorities.
Apart from being denied boarding at the last minute, some customers have also complained that they are harassed by airline companies as they are made to wait for long hours to board their flight without any prior information.
For instance, two months ago a city resident was travelling to Chennai via Delhi. However, the flight was delayed and he was forced to stay over at Delhi for over six hours.
He further informed the DCDRC that the airlines did not offer any food, water or accommodation for the passengers.
He then filed a case seeking compensation for harassment by the airlines, the case is still ongoing.
Authorities said that they are continuously disposing off cases related to airline companies.
Member of the DCDRC Archana Deka Lahkar told G Plus that in cases where any natural calamity is not the reason behind the delay or negligence in services on part of airline companies, the aggrieved party is liable to receive due compensation.
The district consumer forum deals with dispute cases whose value is up to Rs. 20 lakhs –which is the maximum compensation that can be claimed in the district-level consumer court.
On the other hand, state-level cases with a value of more than Rs. 20 lakhs and up till rupees one crore are taken up by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. And finally, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is the apex body which looks after disputes where the total claim and compensation amount exceeds rupees one crore.