In November 2003 an 80-year-old widow friend of my wife's, Mrs. Myrna MacAulay of Bishopton, Quebec, remitted to a private tour guide, Malcolm Carpenter, 17 rue de l’Église, 62134 Prédefin, France (Telephone [protected]), a deposit of 600 pounds sterling for a five-day guided European battlefield tour she had booked with Mr. Carpenter for herself, my wife Mary White and possibly me for April 14-20, 2004. Mr. Carpenter acknowledged receipt of this deposit in an email to Mrs. MacAulay of November 5, 2003.
Mrs. MacAulay was subsequently forced to cancel this trip owing to illness and other factors. She attempted in good faith over many months to rebook new dates with Mr. Carpenter, but without success, as Mr. Carpenter kept responding that he was fully booked on every date available to Mrs. MacAulay.
In an email to Mrs. MacAulay dated July 6, 2005 Mr. Carpenter said that he intended to keep part of Mrs. MacAulay’s deposit for the cancelled booking. After further correspondence requesting the return to Mrs. MacAulay of her deposit, Mr. Carpenter then refused to return any amount, and he has illegally kept Mrs. MacAulay's entire deposit of £600, for which he rendered no services.
This is completely improper. Throughout the worldwide travel industry, it is the practice to hold deposits in trust, and not to treat them as revenue until the services contracted for have been fully delivered. Nowhere, either on Mr. Carpenter's website or in his emails, was there any reference to any part of a deposit being non-refundable in the event of cancellation. In most countries it is illegal for service providers to appropriate deposits without rendering any services in exchange.
Mrs. MacAulay is now 81 years old, and a widow who must support a dependent. She cannot afford the loss of any part of her deposit. She would not have sent such a large deposit if she had any idea that it was not fully refundable in the event of cancellation, especially for medical reasons.
From his current website, it appears that Mr. Carpenter may no longer be offering guided battlefield tours, and has instead switched to the Belgian chocolate business!