An east London travel operator which provides package holidays to the Hajj pilgrimage has been ordered to pay more than £12,000 for failing to protect its customers.
Al Kabir Travels & Tours Ltd, based in New Road, Whitechapel, was found guilty of two consumer protection offences at Thames Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, January 7.
The operator was ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £12,644.
The company was previously fined £9,606 in August last year for similar offences after it was prosecuted by Birmingham City Council.
The court ruled the company did not ensure the protection of 120 pilgrims who travelled to Saudi Arabia last year for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
It did not have any of the required contingencies to allow the repatriation of consumers sent abroad and was unable to refund customers.
The offences breached the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 and part of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The Hajj travel industry has been under the spotlight since Trading Standards funded an enforcement project by Birmingham City Council to root out illegal operators.
Tower Hamlets council said it warned residents in August 2014 against “dodgy tour operators” after it estimated 40 companies selling pilgrimage packages fell short of expectations.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “While the majority of Hajj pilgrimage tour agents who operate in the borough deliver a great service, there are a minority who cash in on religious devotion.
“This conviction will hopefully allay the fears of residents in the borough and remind them to be wary of those who unscrupulously take advantage of consumers.”
Cllr Shiria Khatun, cabinet member for community safety, added: “25,000 people from the UK embark on Hajj every year and many are from Tower Hamlets.
Source: Evening Standard