Unscrupulous travel agents exploiting Muslims

By on 19/09/2012 in News

Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council are warning Muslim residents across the city to book their Hajj pilgrimages with a reputable travel agent.

In the last year Trading Standards have followed up a number of complaints resulting in some traders being taken to court for misleading claims. Also a number of travel operators providing Hajj packages either making false claims about being ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) bonded, or are failing to provide the requisite information in advance to consumers.

Complaints to Birmingham City Council include poor quality accommodation, misleading information about flights to Saudi Arabia, and flight transfers and meals not being supplied as stated.

Council recommendations for Birmingham residents planning to visit the Hajj are:

•    To book Hajj packages through a high street tour operator, which should be ATOL bonded.  This protects the customer's money if the business ceases trading.  It also ensures that customers are transported back to the UK at no extra cost.

•    Know your rights: many legitimate tour operators providing this service run their business well, but if anything does go wrong there are agreed procedures available.

•    Pilgrims should take out travel insurance to protect themselves and their families from paying any additional costs in the event of a crisis.

•    Carefully consider information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before booking to visit the Hajj.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Some unscrupulous tour operators deliberately target the Muslim community claiming they specialise in organising Hajj.  They often don't have an air tours operators licence and are therefore breaking UK law and not providing legal protection for travellers.

“To help protect Birmingham residents the City Council Trading Standards department will be visiting local Hajj tour operators to ensure they are fully aware of their legal obligations.”

Rogue travel agents are preying on vulnerable people in Birmingham and we will do everything possible to protect travellers.

For further advice, contact Citizen Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Ends

Notes to editors
•    Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia which every Muslim is expected to perform at least once during their lifetime, if they are physically and financially able.

•    Saudi government regulations stipulate that British pilgrims performing Umrah and Hajj can only travel with UK travel agencies accredited with the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

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