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UK: Exploitation Of Muslim Hajj Pilgrims Must Stop

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (UK)

Exploitation Of British Muslims Making The Hajj Pilgrimage To Mecca Must Stop

The Government is today hosting a summit to tackle problems faced by British Muslims making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Travel operators, community groups and consumer organisations will discuss with the Government how to protect people from rogue travel agents.

In recent years many pilgrims have been ripped off by a variety of scams, including:

* Paying for a five star hotel, but getting a poor quality cramped room

* Visas and flight tickets not arriving

* Last minute changes to flights

* In extreme cases agents are simply disappearing - taking pilgrims' money with them

Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas said:

"Unfortunately, for some pilgrims what should be the occasion of a lifetime is turning into a nightmare. It's not acceptable and we want to put an end to it. "We need to help pilgrims avoid booking with rogue travel agents and to get redress when they fall foul of those who break the law.

"Pilgrims who are defrauded by rogue travel operators must complain to the Police or Trading Standards, so we can take action to bring the criminals to justice.

"It is encouraging for the UK's annual 25,000 Hajj pilgrims that so many people involved have come together today to find solutions."

Hajj pilgrims from the UK have legal rights under the Package Travel Regulations and may be eligible for compensation if a tour operator has failed to honour its contractual obligations.

To help avoid rogue traders, pilgrims are advised to:

* Check the package operator holds an Air Travel Organiser's Licence (ATOL)

* Consider booking with a company that has been independently recommended by friends or family

* Keep documents such as contracts, invoices and letters in a safe place, as this helps with redress if things go wrong

NOTES

1. Pilgrims can check whether their operator has an ATOL on the Civil Aviation Authority's website at http://www.atol.org.uk

2. Contact details for nearest local authority trading standards offices are available from Consumer Direct at http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk or from local town halls.

3. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform helps UK business succeed in an increasingly competitive world. It promotes business growth and a strong enterprise economy, leads the better regulation agenda and champions free and fair markets. It is the shareholder in a number of Government-owned assets and it works to secure, clean and competitively priced energy supplies

Client ref 2008/143
COI ref 163492P

ENDS

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