Shouldn't a company be responsible for a fraud committed by its franchisee?
A 27-year-old Bengaluru-based businessman says he is being showered with offers by the travel company, MakeMyTrip, three months after he called them out on a fraud. He alleges that the company is making all these offers in an attempt to get him to withdraw his complaint and settle the issue.
Harish and his brother-in-law and business partner, Mani Kanthan, were to travel to Singapore on a business trip on December 18, 2015. However, they could not, as the tickets and the visa allegedly issued to them by a MakeMyTrip franchisee in Kammanahalli were fake.
Narrating their experience, Harish said, “We had bought the tickets for Rs 1.58 lakh in October 2015. We got our ticket and e-visa on December 17. On the evening of December 18, we went to the airport directly, where we were told that our tickets were fake. The police took us in and harassed us like we were terrorists and then let us go when they knew that we were innocent.”
He says that the airline even offered to put them on another flight in the evening. “I was ready to buy the ticket, but I had a hunch that the visa and the return tickets could also not be genuine and I was right. If I had gone ahead, the officials in Singapore would have stamped the passport making sure I’d never be allowed to enter their country,” he said.
On finding the franchisee office closed the next day, Harish and Mani went to the main MakeMyTrip office on Residency road to enquire about their tickets.
“A manager in the office named Yuvaraj admitted that there was a problem and urged us to discuss compensation with him and he would see if that could be fulfilled. However, I stuck to my ground that a higher official must speak to us and tell us who is responsible for our loss,” he said.
The manager, says Harish, then went on to deny any responsibility of MakeMyTrip for the fraud. “We were told by Yuvaraj that we were cheated by people named Rupesh and Roshan, who ran the franchisee where we got our tickets, and that MakeMyTrip had nothing to do with that. How can MakeMyTrip not take any responsibility when they have let a franchisee run in their name and when tickets and other documents come from MakeMyTrip?” Harish asked.
Harish alleges that he was offered a combination of tour packages as compensation by MakeMyTrip to hush up the matter.
“We were initially offered 5 tickets to USA. Then, later, they said they would give Rs 7 lakh instead. We were offered many other combos as compensation. But we refused the offers. Before we left the office we told the manager that we would approach the media and the consumer forum if a higher official did not answer us,” he said.
The company reportedly called the duo to Banaswadi station on February 17 to settle the matter. However, there they met Roshan and Rupesh, who had been arrested for fraud.
“We were surprised to find the franchisee owner. The company later told me that I had been called to speak to the franchisee owners and settle the matter,” he said.
The police then asked the duo to file a case or come to a settlement with Roshan and Rupesh.
“However, the manager asked me to not file a case and said he would try and settle the matter,” said Harish.
Having waited for over three weeks for the manager’s response, Harish filed a complaint against MakeMyTrip on March 4, 2016.
Following this MakeMyTrip raised a complaint against Harish and Mani for “threatening” them despite them trying to settle the matter amicably with compensation.
“The police later called us to give in writing that we would not interact with MakeMyTrip. I don’t know why police was taking the travel agency’s side because there have been a couple of fraud cases against the agency, while this is the only a case against me. Not only did they warn us against contacting them, the police are acting as mediators. The police through messages asked me if I would want to accept offers from the company. I have documented the messages that came from them too,” he said.
In March, MakeMyTrip sent Harish a closure mail asking them to accept the compensation of return tickets for seven persons to USA and Rs 2 lakh and settle the matter amicably. This was reportedly in response to an email from Harish asking for a tour package to the US for seven people as compensation, which Harish says he only asked for to “catch them off guard” and to test their commitment to compensate him.
The closure email he received reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Harish,
We have already placed the settlement on record more than once. We had also communicated the settlement to you when we had met at Banaswadi Police Station at Bangalore on 17th February 2016. Therefore, the contents of your email are surprising.
We once again place on record that you are already aware and have accepted that the forged tickets and visas were provided to you and your co-travelers by Roshan and Rupesh. Roshan has even admitted to the same. We also informed you that we have filed an FIR against Roshan and Rupesh and your visit to the Bansawadi Police Station was an attempt for you to directly settle the matter with Roshan and his family. You refused to settle the matter with him or his family even though they approached you for an amicable settlement.
Being a responsible service provider MakeMyTrip addressed all customers who were cheated by Roshan and Rupesh. We have not only refunded amounts to customers but also provided alternate travel options to customers including you. Please note that no part of your booking was done with MakeMyTrip. However, when the facts of your case were brought to notice, MakeMyTrip arranged your entire trip in good faith. After your return you have been seeking exorbitant compensation from MakeMyTrip in the form of a package tour for 7 to USA. The compensation you have demanded was disproportionate to the issue and exemplary, and so we had to offer a different compensation. You now want to file a police complaint against MakeMyTrip only because your unreasonable demands are not being met. In addition, you have also been threatening the safety and security of MakeMyTrip’s staff for not adhering to your demands.
We still request an amicable settlement in this matter and would like to place our settlement offer before you once again, i.e. return tickets for 7 persons to USA and 2 lakh compensation. Please note that this is our final offer of settlement to you.
This email is without prejudice to our legal rights against you in the above matter.
Meanwhile, with media reports appearing on Harish’s case, many people who have also been cheated by travel agencies, have been contacting him, he says. “Many people messaged me saying they didn’t inform the police because it was too much of running around and time consuming.”
He said that one of the people who contacted him even said that they went to Malaysia only to realise that the visas they got from the travel agency were fake.
Harish said that what he primarily wants from MakeMyTrip is a proper explanation. “I only wanted to meet the officials concerned, who can explain to me what really is the problem. And if MakeMy trip is giving permissions to people to set up franchisee they must also partly be responsible for the fraud.”
Meantime, there is no any response from MakeMyTrip at the time of writing this article.