Police search for missing travel agent who allegedly took flight with clients’ cash

Police search for missing travel agent who allegedly took flight with clients' cash

Police want to talk to the owner and manager of a Victorian travel agency who has disappeared, after consumers complained their cash had been taken but their holidays had not been booked.

Victoria Police this morning confirmed to SmartCompany they are investigating alleged frauds relating to travel purchases through Ace Travel in Colac, after consumers made a number of complaints to police.

They wish to speak to Jordan Dittloff, the owner and manager of Ace Travel.

The Geelong Advertiser reportscustomers who had booked holidays through the agent, including P&O Cruises, were being informed by their holiday destinations that only their deposit had been received.

Janine Childs told Geelong Advertiser her friends had gone into the store to seek answers and were told the agent was missing, as was their money.

“P&O received the deposit but nothing else, other people’s were booked and then cancelled. It’s devastating,” said Childs.

Meanwhile, some customers have taken to Ace Travel’s Facebook page to post abusive comments, including labelling Dittloff a “f-cking asshole” and “f-ckhead”.

Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Gary O’Riordan, general manger of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, says he had been told Ace Travel is now completely closed, after staff were there helping affected customers as late as Wednesday.

O’Riordan says he has concerns based on information from police and had spoken to Dittloff’s mother, who herself was a travel agent for over 30 years. He says Dittloff had taken over the business from her and it had “grown too fast”.

He also raised concerns about the future of Ace Travel while its sole director was missing.

“We just need to track him down, we’ve got to locate him first,” O’Riordan says.

O’Riordan says the rate of agency closures in the travel industry is very low.

“We need to get on with promoting thousands of agents out there that do the right thing,” he says.

Rohan Harris, principal at law firm Russell Kennedy, told SmartCompany there are basic guarantees under Australian Consumer Law to protect consumers when paying for goods and services they don’t receive.

“[Those guarantees] say service providers, including travel agents, must provide the basic level of service and deal with clients’ money appropriately,” Harris says.

Harris says credit card chargeback rights may protect consumers if they pay for holidays via credit card and some travellers may also be protected if they have appropriate travel insurance.

But Harris says the Travel Agents Compensation Fund that previously existed to protect consumers, ceased on June 30 last year.

SmartCompany attempted several times to contact Ace Travel but the calls were not answered.

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