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Pune: 71-yr-old takes on tour operator over refund, awarded damages

After a two-year legal battle seeking a refund from Kesari Tours, the district consumer forum ruled on the plaintiff’s behalf, directing the company to refund his money and pay additional compensation as well

As 71-year-old Satishchandra Vasantrao Ghatwal booked a tour to Australia and Europe, little had he known that his dream trip would soon turn into a legal and financial nightmare, ending only when a consumer forum finally provided him some relief in a ruling last week.

For the past two years, the Model Colony resident had been fighting Kesari Tours Pvt Ltd for a refund on the tour package after he had to suddenly cancel the trip following an unforeseen family crisis. On November 5, the Pune District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum ruled that the company’s refusal to refund Ghatwal’s payment had not only “amounted to deficiency in service”, but was also “unfair trade practice”.

The forum directed the tour company and its director to jointly refund Rs 3.20 lakh to Ghatwal within six weeks, as well as an additional Rs 10,000 for mental and physical suffering, and another Rs 5,000 for legal charges.

Ghatwal, a retired mechanical engineer who resides in Loukik Apartments, said, “It was my dream to visit Europe and Australia. On March 17, 2012, I booked three tour packages for both countries with Kesari Tours for my wife, my granddaughter and myself and paid Rs 90 thousand as the booking amount, and Rs 3.10 lakh as tour charges three days later. The tour was scheduled to begin on May 17, 2012.”

Unfortunately, just the day before the trip was to begin, Ghatwal’s elder sister met with a road accident and passed away on the same night.

“I had no option but to cancel my trip and immediately informed the tour manager and Kesari’s Mumbai office,” he said.

Already distraught from his sister’s sudden passing, Ghatwal received another rude shock. “After paying my last respects, I contacted the tour company’s staff and enquired about a refund. I was informed that since the tour was cancelled at the last moment, the airline fares could not be refunded, and neither could the payments towards the hotel and other facilities,” he said.

Instead, Ghatwal was told that he would get a discount of R25,000 for three passengers each on his next tour.
He and his lawyers, Dnyanaj Sant and Laxman Jadhav moved the district consumer forum against the company and its director, Zelam Chaubal in September 2012, under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The ruling
The three-member panel in the forum observed, “The company refused to pay a single rupee without offering any explanation. In such circumstances, it is the opinion of this forum that this act of the company is not only deficiency in service but it is also unfair trade practice.”

“I am happy that justice has been given to me. At least, now the tour company must follow the order and refund my hard-earned money,” said Ghatwal.

The other side

Zelam Chaubal, the director of Kesari Tours Pvt Ltd, said, “This verdict is based on emotional sentiment. As the tour was cancelled by Ghatwal at the last moment, we had already paid the amount to the suppliers who were going to render the services. We cannot get those amounts back from them. We were ready to pay some amount to Ghatwal but he did not accept it. I will go through the order and plan to file an appeal.”

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