Trading Standards have urged the Muslim community to book their Hajj pilgrimages with a reputable travel agent after a number of sham holidays were sold.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards has received complaints from people who have booked Hajj packages.
Every healthy and financially able Muslim must undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his/her lifetime. Pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals.
Consumers have in the past raised concerns about poor quality and overcrowded hotel rooms, poor transport arrangements and a lack of clarity regarding what the package includes. Also in other areas, rogue agents have taken pilgrims’ money and disappeared.
In response to local concerns, Trading Standards Officers have been visiting Hajj organisers over the past two years.
Trading Standards has now produced a leaflet and poster aimed at helping potential pilgrims to choose their organiser wisely and to be sure that, when they book their Hajj Pilgrimage, they are getting everything that they are entitled to.
Councillor Andrew Pinnock, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: “There are unscrupulous tour operators that deliberately target the Muslim community claiming to specialise in organising Hajj packages.
“These air tour operators do not have a licence, are breaking the law and do not provide legal protection for travellers.
“Consumers need to be aware, and make sure that they ask for the ATOL number when making enquiries about a Hajj pilgrimage trip.”
The advice includes getting the correct information in writing about the pilgrimage. Organisers must also make sure that pilgrims’ money is safe in the event that the organiser (or other business that is involved in the package) becomes insolvent.
When consumers book an ATOL protected holiday, they should be given an ATOL Certificate by the travel company as soon as they pay over any money for the holiday - even if this is only a deposit.
Copies of the leaflet can be downloaded from the Trading Standards website at www.hajj.wyjs.org.uk, along with further information and advice.