In a recent ruling by a consumer disputes redressal commission in Bengaluru, online travel company MakeMyTrip has been ordered to pay a fine of ₹1.45 lakh for a botched hotel booking that left a traveler stranded in London. The commission also directed MakeMyTrip to compensate the complainant, Mayur Bharath, with an additional ₹4.34 lakh for the expenses he incurred in securing alternative accommodation.
The commission noted the unfair experience suffered by Bharath, who had to arrange alternative accommodation at an exorbitant price due to the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Despite booking the hotel four months in advance and paying the full amount, MakeMyTrip failed to secure the reservation, leaving Bharath in a difficult situation.
Bharath sought direction from MakeMyTrip to bear the additional expenses he incurred towards booking another hotel, along with compensation for the hardship, mental agony, and stress he endured. MakeMyTrip, however, opposed the complaint, claiming they couldn’t be held liable for the hotel not honoring the reservation.
The commission rejected MakeMyTrip’s argument, emphasizing that consumers trust such platforms when traveling and hold them responsible for ensuring a satisfactory experience. It deemed MakeMyTrip responsible for the deficiency in service, especially considering the lack of alternative accommodation arrangements and the financial burden placed on the consumer.
As a result, MakeMyTrip was directed to reimburse Bharath the difference of ₹4,34,420 for the alternative arrangement, along with ₹1,00,000 as compensation and ₹20,000 as litigation costs. Additionally, MakeMyTrip was ordered to pay ₹25,000 towards punitive damages under section 39(1)(g) of the Consumer Protection Act, to the Consumer Welfare Fund.
Section 39(1)(g) of the Consumer Protection Act pertains to the power of the consumer dispute redressal agencies to award punitive damages to consumers. Punitive damages are additional monetary awards meant to punish the party at fault for their wrongdoing or misconduct, rather than solely compensating the victim for their losses.Under this provision, if the consumer dispute redressal agency finds that the service provider has engaged in unfair or deceptive practices, or has shown negligence or disregard for consumer rights, it may order the service provider to pay punitive damages. These damages serve as a deterrent against similar misconduct in the future and aim to deter the service provider from repeating such behaviour.
This ruling serves as a reminder to online travel companies to prioritize customer satisfaction and fulfill their responsibilities in ensuring a hassle-free experience for travelers. It underscores the importance of accountability and transparency in the travel industry, with implications for how companies handle customer grievances and compensate for service failures.