Holiday consultants have been cold-calling Kiwis, offering them discounted holiday vouchers, but Consumer NZ has warned cheap holiday deals are “never what they seem”.
International Holidays, which says it is based in Melbourne, is offering vouchers it guarantees entitle bearers and three family members to between 30 and 50 per cent off return airfares to anywhere in the world.
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Kiwis are being told that, for a limited time, they can buy five vouchers for A$299 (NZ$320) and that the same “gold” membership package goes for A$799 in Australia.
Sam Johnson, a senior manager with the company, said it deals directly with airlines, including Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar.
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He said the company uses the airpoints it earns from making bookings to obtain discounted airfares for customers.
Airlines, however, have said they are unaware of International Holidays and don’t have agreements with the company.
An Air New Zealand spokesperson said the company does not have any affiliation with the company and would not accept its vouchers.
“[W]e have made our fraud team aware of this activity,” she said.
Air NZ Airpoints Dollars cannot be earned by third parties such as travel agents when making a booking on behalf of their clients and are not transferable to other rewards programmes, she added.
Jetstar is also unaware of the company and does not have any agreement with it, according to an airline spokesperson.
A Qantas spokesperson couldn’t immediately confirm whether the airline had an arrangement with the company, but said “I highly doubt it. It doesn’t seem legit.”
Asked why the airlines hadn’t heard of the company, Johnson reiterated that it uses airpoints to pass on discounts to clients.
DISCOUNT HOLIDAY VOUCHER OFFERS ARE NOT NEW
Consumer NZ adviser Maggie Edwards said these kind of offers had been “doing the rounds for years”.
“If you pay the $299, they may send you the vouchers but the vouchers will be worthless.”
The discount voucher companies, who are typically based overseas, will target New Zealand for a while and move elsewhere if and when they begin to attract unwanted attention. Once the heat dies down, they return and use a different company name.
She said there were both fraudulent and legitimate holiday discount voucher operators, and it could be difficult to detect the fraudsters.
If you’re offered such vouchers, Edwards said you should never give your credit card details or other personal information without verifying that the company is authentic.
“If you’re tempted by the offer, don’t hand over any money until you’ve checked the company and the vouchers are legitimate.”
The Commerce Commission has urged New Zealanders multiple times over the years to be wary of telemarketers selling vouchers for free or discounted holidays.
In December 2009, the commission successfully prosecuted Australian holiday voucher company Discount Premium Holiday Limited for 39 breaches of the Fair Trading Act. The company was fined $209,000.
KIWI’S COLD-CALL EXPERIENCE
Johnson said International Holidays had “a good number” of customers from New Zealand who had travelled using the vouchers and never complained.
The company has multiple positive reviews on its own website, but those on TripAdvisor are anything but.
Bev Garson of Hawke’s Bay said she was immediately sceptical when a representative for the company phoned her at 9pm on Saturday night.
“She seemed a bit aggrieved that I was questioning her but continued in a professional way. She said they were doing this promo out of Australia so I thought well it’s only 7pm there and let her continue.”
Garson agreed to give the woman her email address and promptly received an email from Johnson about the A$299 offer, which he said could also be used for up to 50 per cent off accommodation internationally.
Two nights later she spoke to another woman from the company who said her name was Nancy.
Nancy told Garson that the company’s large customer base gave it the buying power to obtain substantial discounts with airlines and hotels.
All customers needed to do to obtain the discounts was to find the flights they wanted, phone the airline and give them their voucher number, she said. However, International Holidays preferred to make the bookings itself.
“When you ask a question, you are bombarded with information and it’s all really fast, so it sounds legit,” Garson said. “If it’s a scam it’s quite sophisticated I think.”