(photo credit: AP)
Travel agency Gulliver Holidays Ltd. has been fined NIS 100,000 for misleading travel advertisements on its Web site.
Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on Thursday said Gulliver had violated the Consumer Protection Law through transactions executed via the Internet.
The court ruling came in response to a complaint by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, which said Gulliver had broken the law in six cases regarding cancellation terms and misleading prices.
"I hope and believe that the court ruling will encourage more consumers not to be afraid of litigation if they feel that they have fallen victim of false, deceptive and misleading information," Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked said. "The ruling serves as a warning for businesses that the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry is supervising the law and will continue to protect consumers' rights."
The Consumer Protection Law entitles customers to cancel flight tickets and holiday packages bought over the Internet within 14 days from the date of purchase. The cancellation fee is set at NIS 100, or 5 percent of the sum of the transaction, whichever is lower. Purchases made within seven days of the departure date cannot be canceled.
In one of the cases, a customer who canceled three flight tickets bought via Gulliver within the allotted cancellation period was charged $50 in addition to a NIS 100 fee for each flight. The charges violated the law and deviated from the company's online terms.
In another case, a customer who had entered into a similar transaction wanted to cancel the purchase within the allowed time but was forced to pay $150 in cancellation fees.
In another case, a consumer who bought flight tickets from Gulliver complained that the agency had not posted cancellation terms on its Internet site and had refused to cancel the purchase.
Gulliver also advertised holiday cruises to various destinations on its Web site. But when customers contacted the travel agency, it quoted a higher price than the one advertised and the offer was contingent on ordering a room for four people.
"In purchases from a distance, in which there is no meeting between the buyer and the seller, consumers need to make sure at the time of purchase that cancellation terms and all other conditions of the deal are printed as part of the offer," said Tali Keinan, a lawyer for the ministry.
She said the ministry was dealing with more cases in which travel agencies had deceived consumers through false advertising.