In my Consumer Alert column of Monday, February 11, “Each franchise is a private company”, about the closure of the Harvey World Travel (HWT) franchise in Gateway, I stated that the franchisor, Harvey World Travel Southern Africa, had informed the franchisee, Guy Stringer, that his franchise agreement had been cancelled and “ordered him to shut up shop”.
This was not an entirely accurate account of what happened.
The franchisor did, in fact, inform Stringer that his franchise agreement had been terminated, but instructed him only to remove all HWT branding from his operation.
In other words, he was to cease operating as a Harvey World Travel franchise.
Harvey World Travel has pointed out, through an attorney, that it was Stringer’s decision to close his doors.
I went on to say in that column that Stringer closed up shop “leaving his many clients – who’d paid him for flights, tours and hotel accommodation, both local and overseas, but had yet to be issued their vouchers – to get a letter from his attorney, informing them of ‘this unfortunate situation’.”
Those who complained to me had said they had not received their travel vouchers, such as e-tickets, which they were promised by the Gateway franchise.
HWT has pointed out that Stringer had sent consumers confirmation of airline reservations, which were, in fact, never booked.
“We are in possession of all documentation in support of this statement, but cannot release it without the consent of the consumers involved.”
HWT’s attorney said: “The article suggests that Stringer’s clients did not receive any booking vouchers as a result of our client “ordering him to close up shop, which is vehemently denied by our client”.
I in no way intended to suggest or even hint that any action on the part of the franchisor had led to the consumers in question being prejudiced, and apologise to Harvey World Travel if I created this impression by stating that it had ordered the franchisee to “close shop”, and that, after he did so, his clients were left in the lurch.
As I went on to state in that column, the clients in question have discovered that Stringer “failed to pay the respective airlines and hotels for the bookings – as he had claimed to have done – so the bookings have fallen away, and, of course, the rates and airfares have since gone up”.
* Harvey World Travel has opened a case of alleged fraud against the franchisee at the Durban North police station – 199/2/2013.
The Warrant Officer investigating the matter is W/O R Balram who can be contacted at 031 560 8136.