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Customers left out of pocket in Melbourne agent mystery

June 24, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Shocked customers left out of pocket are demanding an investigation after a Melbourne travel agent shut up shop earlier this month and stopped returning phone calls.

SmartCompany, the Australian publication for growth businesses and entrepreneurs, has described how One World Travel in the Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh East “suddenly newspapered its windows some weeks ago and posted a notice claiming to have appointed administrators”.

One World Travel’s website was taken down, listed contact numbers disconnected “and calls to numbers associated with the company’s director, whose whereabouts is unknown, bounce back”, the publication said.

One World Travel’s Facebook site carries the notice: “Sorry, this content isn’t available right now.”

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has published on its website a “special notice” relating to One World Travel (ABN 64 107 303 971) saying that the agent “was suspended by AFTA in February 2019 and voluntary withdrew in March 2019 as detailed on the ATAS Cancelled list”.

ASIC records show a company of that name (One World Travel Pty Ltd) and with that ABN was registered on 5 December 2003 and is still registered, with the next review set for 5 December 2019.

The AFTA notice states that “AFTA are aware that the travel agent One World Travel has permanently closed its doors” and refers to a sign on the door of the agency premises.

AFTA adds:

 AFTA have been notified that industry sources are attempting to identify affected customers and assist with bookings. Affected customers should seek the assistance of an ATAS accredited travel agent to assist in having a transfer of agency for the booking.

SmartCompany says a notice fixed to the agent’s shop window says: “One World Travel entered voluntary administration as of 3rd of June ’19.”

Yet as far as corporate regulator ASIC is concerned, One World Travel is still registered for trading and no administrators have come forward claiming to represent the business.

SmartCompany quoted Melbourne-based solicitor Ilya Furman, who says he represents 50 customers left out of pocket after the travel agent’s disappearance.

Furman said claims ranged from airline tickets to full travel packages – including a couple who had booked an Alaskan cruise for AUD 30,000.

When Furman brought the matter to the attention of Victoria Police earlier this month, he says he was passed on to Consumer Affairs Victoria and then to ASIC, in what he termed “a bit of a runaround”.

Since mid 2014 when the Travel Agents Act was repealed and the Travel Compensation Fund ceased to operate, customers left out of pocket in such cases often don’t quite know where to turn. Credit card chargebacks or insurance may help, but the situation is uncertain. In a number of travel agency collapses since 2014, customers have lost their money.

Written by Peter Needham

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