Pilgrims told to beware of Hajj rip-offs

MUSLIMS in West Yorskhire have been warned by the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service to be on their guard for rogue Hajj travel agents.

The majority of travel operators arranging pilgrimages to Mecca provide an excellent service, but Trading Standards has received reports locally of travel agents taking advantage of pilgrims by not fulfilling their obligations.

As a result some consumers have experienced numerous difficulties including poor quality of hotel rooms, crowded buses for transfers and a lack of clarity about what the package includes.

Trading Standards says pilgrims who have been ‘ripped off’ are reluctant to bring their complaints to the authorities, so no action is taken against the rogue agents.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards advises travellers to always choose an authorised licensed agency recognised by Saudi Arabian authorities, and to check that their trip is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers Licence) protected. They also recommend that travellers book with a company used and recommended by friends or family, and that they get details of the trip in writing before they pay.

Chief officer Graham Hebblethwaite said: “It is vital that consumers know what their package includes and get it in writing before they set off for the pilgrimage so they know what to expect and if anything does go wrong there is evidence it supports their claim.”

Coun Andrew Pinnock of the Trading Standards Committee said: “While some hardship and sacrifice are a test of one’s patience while performing the blessed pilgrimage, keeping quiet about or accepting shortcomings when you have paid for a service to an agent is not.”

If something does go wrong, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506.