Published Tuesday 19 August 2014 at 13:06
Blackburn with Darwen’s Trading Standards Officers are teaming up with a national task force to tackle illegal Hajj tour operators.
Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medinah in Saudi Arabia which every Muslim is expected to perform at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically and financially able to do so. Unfortunately, every year Hajj pilgrims across the country fall prey to unregulated tour operators, and so National Trading Standards have created a task force to assist local authorities to tackle illegal Hajj operators.
This has resulted in Trading Standards Officers from Birmingham joining colleagues in Blackburn with Darwen to conduct proactive inspections of Hajj package tour operators, revealing some non-compliance with consumer protection legislation. Enforcement action will follow where necessary.
Formal action is currently being taken against one trader in the borough and investigations are continuing in regard to six other traders.
Cllr Jan Virmani, Blackburn with Darwen’s Executive Member forNeighborhoods, Housing and Customer Service, said:
“I’m pleased that we’re working with this national task force to protect our Hajj pilgrims. While this enforcement work takes place, our advice to Hajj pilgrims remains the same; make sure you book your pilgrimage with an ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) bonded operator – this will mean that your money is protected if the operator ceases trading, and that you won’t be stranded abroad.
“We also recommend that pilgrims take out travel insurance to protect themselves and their families from paying additional costs in the event of a crisis.”
Sajeela Naseer, National Trading Standards Hajj Consumer Protection Lead, said:
“Every year in the UK British Pilgrims going on the Hajj fall victim to deceptive fraudsters who offer travel packages that are either misleading or false. Some people who have paid money for five-star accommodation have ended up cramped shared rooms with strangers while others have bought flights and accommodation without ever hearing from the company again. Most Pilgrims will have a memorable trip, but we urge you to be vigilant when making your travel and accommodation arrangements: make sure your booking is ATOL-protected and check that your package tour operator is approved by the Ministry of Hajj. Avoid paying for your trip by cash and always make sure itineraries and relevant paperwork are sent to you as part of your booking.”