Many Lowestoft Travel customers will not get a refund

ANGRY customers of troubled coach firm Lowestoft Travel have lodged complaints with consumer watchdogs and police as hundreds face up to missing out on trips and losing the money they paid for them.

The Journal revealed last week how people from across the Lowestoft area had paid out thousands of pounds for holidays, and trips to West End shows and concerts – only to discover that they may now never happen.

Most of them now face the grim prospect of losing all their money as well missing out on their trips after the Hopton-based company's owner Symon Thorp, 44, and two employees were jailed for importing drugs. In the past week, desperate customers have contacted The Journal to express their anger and find out if they can get refunds or still go on their trips. About 40 have lodged complaints with Norfolk police and Trading Standards.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman told The Journal: 'Officers have investigated complaints received from members of the public and the matter has been passed to Norfolk Trading Standards.'

Norfolk Trading Standards officer Phil Childs did have one spot of good news for those customers who paid over �100 on their credit cards, as they may be able to claim back the money under the Consumer Credit Act, which states the credit card company is liable for any breach of contract by the business.

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However, many holidaymakers paid the full sum in cash for trips to Belgium, Spain, Italy and Croatia while others paid monthly instalments of �100 in cash direct to the company, and they are not legally entitled to a refund.

He advised consumers who paid by cash to call the administrator if the firm went into receivership.

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Thorp received a four-year jail term at Canterbury Crown Court last month, while his employees, Owen Marshall-Eliot, 68, of Beccles Road, Gorleston and David Clark, 51, of Rowan Way, Lowestoft received three year and two year jail terms respectively for importing drugs.

'Norfolk Trading Standards has received between 35 to 40 complaints about Lowestoft Travel, and is looking into the matter. It is too early to say where these investigations may lead,' Mr Childs said.

'To make it clear, any consumer claim lies with Lowestoft Travel Ltd, even in those circumstances where a consumer paid money to another agent. The agent isn't liable unless they are found to be at fault.

'The overwhelming issue for most consumers is that whilst the business activity seems to have stopped the company is still active and the date of travel is some weeks/months off.

'Therefore, whilst it seems certain consumers will not get what they paid for, there has been no breach of contract until this actually happens.'

Customers are advised to call Consumer Direct on 0845 4040506.

Contrary to the details given on some of its receipts and company documents, the registered address of Lowestoft Travel is actually Hopton Timber Mills, Hall Road, Hopton NR31 9AX – not as printed in last week's Journal.

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