Online bait and switch lands travel agent in court

A Kowloon travel agent who sold a ticket on a group-buying platform in a bait-and-switch fraud has been convicted of unfair trade practices.

Neither the online buying platform or the travel agent were named in a statement released by Customs summarising the crime.

The travel agency and its salesperson were fined $10,000 and sentenced to 80 hours of Community Service Order respectively on March 1 and at a subsequent hearing yesterday at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts for engaging in bait and switch practice, in contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO). The travel agent was also ordered to pay the victim $2320 in compensation.

Customs earlier received information alleging that a travel agent and its salesperson were suspected of engaging in unfair trade practices in the sale of travel services.

After investigation, it was discovered that the travel agent had sold an air ticket voucher at a discounted price on a group-purchase website. When the customer went to redeem the voucher, the travel agent and its salesperson refused to provide an air ticket. The customer was allowed to use the voucher only after he purchased a more expensive air ticket and hotel package.

Customs has used the case as a reminder to traders to comply with the requirements of the TDO and for consumers to procure services at reputable shops.

Under the TDO, any trader who offers a service for purchase at a specified price but subsequently, with the intention of promoting a different service, refuses to deliver the service within a reasonable time commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

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