Immigration firm told to refund money

Chandigarh Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum-II has directed a local immigration consultancy to refund Rs 1.08 lakh to a youth for failing to send him to Australia for higher studies.

President of the Forum Lakshman Sharma and Members Madhu Mutneja and Jaswinder Singh Sidhu have also directed the consultancy to pay Rs 7,000 to the complainant Onkar Verma as cost of litigation.

In his complaint, Verma told the Forum that in 2007, he was allured by the advertisement issued by the firm about its specialisation in providing consultation for immigration to various countries. He approached the firm and stated that he wanted to go to Australia for higher studies.

Verma said the executives at the firm assured him that he fulfilled the eligibility conditions for immigration to Australia. He gave all the requisite documents to the firm for completion the formalities for his immigration. At their bid, he gave a demand draft of Rs 16,100 in the name of the Australian High Commission as 'initial assessment fee'. He gave another demand draft of 1500 Australian dollars in the name of an Australian institute; Rs 18,521 as visa fee and service charges, and Rs 1.08 lakh as processing charges.

In addition, he paid Rs 10,000 in cash for filing charges, against which no receipt was issued. Verma also spent Rs 7,000 for obtaining medical certificates from the doctors of the Australian High Commission to get the student visa.

Verma said he was shocked when he received a letter from Australian government in July 2009 that he did not satisfy the relevant criteria for grant of student visa, and his application had been rejected. The ground given in the rejection letter was that the complainant had not provided acceptable evidence that the amount of funds available with him were sufficient to meet the course fee, living cost and school cost. Verma stated in his complaint that the rejection of his visa was due to the negligent and deficient services provided by the firm, and demanded the refund of his money.

In its reply submitted in the court, the firm stated that Verma's complaint was baseless, and he had not produced any document or evidence to show that he paid even a single penny to the company to hire its services.

The company submitted some documents in support of its arguments. But after studying these documents, the Forum stated that these were "false, fabricated and manipulated". The Forum agreed that the cheques and demand drafts placed on record by Verma were not paid to the consultancy firm. However, an amount of Rs 1.08 lakh had been paid to a person who was the Accountant/Authorized Signatory of the firm.

The Forum added that the letter sent by the Australian High Commission proved that the firm had handled the case of the complainant for obtaining visa from Australia. After considering the case, the Forum agreed that the firm had been negligent in providing adequate services to Verma, and directed it to refund his money and also pay litigation costs.

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