The complaint has been investigated and
resolved to the customer's satisfaction
China ToursUnfair charges on canceled tour

An unfair trade practice unheard of anywhere in the world.

Only in Hongkong a buyer has to pay even if the product/service is not delivered, elsewhere the buyer is penalized only if he defaults. This we just experienced in our last trip to Hongkong (March 9th to April 1st)

Before we left Vancouver, on March 6th we booked Tour CDF06TD (6-day trip to Jiuzhaigou departing 14th March 2009, Booking No. PA17756, departure was confirmed as Wing On had the right number of participants) with Wing On Travel through long distance telephone and paid the deposit HK$1, 000 on my Visa card. The balance was paid by our friend on the following day direct with Wing On in Hongkong. We then purchased our air passage and prepaid our hotel in Kowloon based on the scheduled dates of the tour.

Two hours before the scheduled pre-trip briefing on March 11th, we received a call from Wing On that the trip had to be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances (Jiuzhaigou was temporary closed). We were offered three options:

1) going on another trip through Wing On departing on/ about March 14th, no penalty
2) accept travel coupon valid for 6 months, no penalty
3) take cash refund subject to a penalty (Wing On call this service fee) HK$300 per person

We appeared in person at Wing On's branch at the Bank Centre, Nathan Road, Mongkok. Our efforts in searching for a substitute tour with Wing On was in vain. We reasoned with the counter staff Alex Yip and manager Gary Chu was of no avail, since apparently they were acting on a Travel Industry Council Directive. We finally had to accept cash refund, less HK$600 deducted by Wing On as operating costs.

At the time of making the deposit and/or balance of the payment, we were advised of the various penalties, as common to all commodity/service sellers around the world, in the event if we, the buyers, default. No mention was made about charges in the event the Travel Agency defaults, albeit by Act of God or otherwise.

Terms in all contracts of sale only exempt the contracting parties from liabilities in certain circumstances. In an era when consumers and merchants are getting more and more used to full refund satisfaction guaranteed (or refund by returning the goods within 15/30 days, sometimes subject to restocking fees), it is absurd to ask the customers to pay even though failing to deliver the product.

In the present circumstances, the product (Tour CDF06TD) was NEVER DELIVERED. How could Wing On charge us HK$600 to cover their operation costs for a tour never materialized with no fault on our part? How could Wing On expects us to accept travel coupons which means we have to incur additional expenses for airfare and lodging on another trip within six months just to utilize the coupons? We just wonder, if the travel agencies are allowed to charge fees whether the tours depart or not, who in future dare to buy such products?

We placed a complaint with the Consumer Council (File Number CC301/181781/2008). Sadly to say the Consumer Council cannot tell the difference between complaint against the travel agency staff/travel agency and complaint against the TIC directive. They told us that Wing On had the right to take away $600 from us, based on the unfair TIC directive. We were hoping the Consumer Council would fight on the consumers' behalf against an unfair and unreasonable TIC policy.

Similarly, our complaint direct with the Travel Industry Council (File number EL05061) led us nowhere. The TIC officer, Miss Tsui, was courteous, but she cannot help as the TIC directive empowered Wing On to do so.

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