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By Chris Maskilone

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has urged consumers to be vigilant over “cheap travel packages” offered by travel agencies especially through online.

“There is no such thing as a “free lunch”. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is,” said President Datuk Tan Kok Liang.

Datuk Tan Kok Liang. – SNT File Pix

Tan was commenting on a media report over a travel package scam involving over RM810,000 and affecting some 120 travellers.

He advised consumers to practise diligence before signing up for travel packages offered online such as through social media like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

“Browse online to check the company legitimacy, trip reviews, track record and get referrals from friends, clients, or relatives on the company,” he said.

“Consumer who had been cheated by irresponsible or illegal travel agent must immediately lodge a police report, and file a claim with the Consumer Tribunal.

“They can then further pursue the matter with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) who are the regulatory and licensing authority for travel agents,” he said.

Tan said MATTA viewed the matter seriously and called for swift legal action including criminal charges to be taken against any company or individual found to be involved or associated with such fraudulent activities.

“Culprits must be put to jail and charged with the maximum penalty as a deterrent,” he said.

“However, like any other industry, there are bound to be some bad apples. Not all travel agencies or tour operators are out to cheat people, and many, if not most, are legitimate businesses.

“To protect the interest of genuine travel agents and consumers, swift enforcement actions need to be taken and a review of current practices to close loop holes for such fraudulent activities,” he said.

It was reported that some 120 people who paid a total RM810,000 to a travel agency for a dream vacation in Europe were shocked after they were informed by the airline that their names were not listed on their flights to Turkey, Paris, and Santorini at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) last week.-SabahNewsToday