The Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a meeting with online travel aggregators on Wednesday where the issue of non-refund of ticket amounts was brought up for the bookings that were made during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The department said that even though the Supreme Court of India gave a ruling to refund the ticket amount for the bookings done during the pandemic, several complaints were made in this regard. These grievances were registered on the National Consumer Helpline.
Observing the lapses on the part of a few companies in the matter, the Central Consumer Protection Authority had taken cognisance of it and sent notices to six online portals, including the travel platforms EaseMyTrip, Yatra, MakeMyTrip, HappyEasyGo, ClearTrip and Ixigo, as well as travel agencies such as Thomas Cook, Kesari Tours, Veena World, Neem Holidays and Mango Holidays.
The authority then mandated them to make the requisite refunds to consumers.
However, companies including Kesari Tours, Mango Holidays and Veena World have gone to court to challenge orders from the CCPA to issue refunds to customers. At the same time, Neem Holidays is currently under investigation by the CCPA.
The travel companies were given a deadline to process pending refunds by the third week of November. Failure to comply may result in the CCPA initiating legal action, including filing a contempt petition against the companies in the Supreme Court.
In the meeting, it was also decided that integrating the National Consumer Helpline with the Air Sewa Portal would help in effectively resolving consumer complaints.
Representatives from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation highlighted that the ministry has published a ‘Passenger Charter, underscoring the rights of passengers during air travel.
It was suggested that the charter should be actively promoted among consumers, including by publishing it on the National Consumer Helpline. Additionally, the establishment of an Ombudsman was discussed to ensure time-bound resolution of consumer grievances.
It was suggested that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Department of Consumer Affairs collaborate to develop the necessary framework for the establishment of such an Ombudsman.