Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Travel companies may be charging for outdated fees

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Tourism Bureau said yesterday it would investigate whether some travel agencies are overcharging their customers with unjustified fees.

The announcement followed an accusation by the Consumers Foundation, which said that some travel agencies were charging customers for war risk insurance and an old fuel surcharge rate despite the fact that the rates had been lowered by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).

The foundation also said that there was no longer war risk insurance for domestic airlines.

Noting that travel agencies have suffered tremendously amid the economic downturn, Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰), director of the bureau’s hotel, travel and training division, said that travel agencies may be asking customers to pay the charges to make up for lost profit.

Other factors also include different ways of calculating their costs and price differences caused by fluctuating foreign exchange rates, he said.

“They [travel agencies] know they collect these payments on behalf of the airlines, and they don’t own the money,” he said. “Instead of charging the customers fairly, they … overcharge customers. The bureau can penalize them based on the regulations governing the management of the travel industry.”

Based on the standardized tour contract approved by the Tourism Bureau, travel agencies should refund customers if the ticket price or the transportation charge decreases by more than 10 percent after the contract was signed, and can ask customers to cover the price difference if any of these charges increases by more than 10 percent.

Chang said that consumers should not overlook these miscellaneous charges simply because the total tour price is cheap.

Chang advised travelers to save all of their receipts, contracts and other relevant documents if they suspect they have been overcharged and would like to file a complaint with the Tourism Bureau or a travel organization.

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