Picture: AP/Matt Rourke

Durban - The owner of Harvey World Travel in Gateway has closed the business and will sell his home to repay customers who accused him of taking their money after they paid for travel packages and flights which his agency did not book.

His wife will sell her business. These moves come a week after Harvey World Travel terminated its franchise agreement with Guy Springer’s agency. Complaints had flooded in from clients, some of whom were stranded overseas because their paid-for flights had not been booked.

This week another customer, Peter Bendheim, former director of communication at the eThekwini Municipality, now with Durban Tourism, told The Mercury he, too, had lost money after booking flights with Harvey World Travel Gateway.

On January 17 he and his wife had booked two return tickets to Malaysia, where they intended taking a month-long holiday in March. However, he did not receive the e-Tickets from Harvey, despite asking numerous times.

After reading a recent article in The Mercury, Bendheim found that their tickets had not been booked. Harvey World Travel Gateway still has the R16 000 he paid.

“I never use travel agencies and always book online with the airlines, but after battling to get the right fares and connections I went to Harvey World Travel Gateway. I knew the brand and thought it was reputable,” he said.

Bendheim said he was not informed or made aware that the branch was an independent franchise. After contacting the head office he was told that it disclaimed any fiscal responsibility which he said was outrageous.

“They have a brand which they won’t support when trouble hits. It seems outrageous to me that customers make product choices on brands which we believe we can trust, but those very companies fail to stand by their brands, and ordinary consumers become victims.”

Rosemary Moss, the MD of Harvey World Travel, explained that although franchisees had access to group products, services and marketing support, franchisees were still independent business operators, so liabilities and manner of conduct rested solely with the franchisee.

“However, Harvey World Travel will never turn its back on customers and, as soon as we have completed further investigation, means will be sought to assist customers in recovering their money from the franchisee.”

She urged customers who were affected to contact her, adding that they were “absolutely appalled” by what had happened at the Gateway franchise.

Springer’s attorney, Mike Nolan, said Springer was aware of Bendheim’s case and that he (Nolan) had contacted him to tell him of Springer’s plans to repay him and other creditors.

“Mr Springer has accepted that the franchise agreement has been terminated, has removed the branding and he has closed the business… (He) is not going to liquidate his business and has every intention of personally paying back all the creditors of Springer Travel cc that are owed money.”

To do this, Springer would sell his home, and his wife her business, using the proceeds to pay the creditors.

“Unfortunately these transactions may take some time and I estimate that the funds should come through by the end of April 2013. I am arranging for those funds to be paid to me into my trust account and I will distribute the amounts due to all the creditors in an orderly manner,” he said.

Nolan said some creditors had threatened criminal proceedings and although it was their right to, he urged them not to as it would be “counter-productive” and result in their not getting their money back.

“Mr Springer needs to concentrate on concluding the above transactions successfully so that the proceeds can be used to pay everyone,” he said.

The Mercury