A CITY tourism operator who falsely claimed his companies were accredited by VisitScotland has been taken to court by trading standards officers.
Highland Council secured an order at Inverness Sheriff Court against Ali Raza Mohamed who owns the Highlander B&B in Ardconnel Street and Highlander Hostel in High Street.
He was found on more than one occasion to be falsely claiming membership of VisitScotland’s quality assurance scheme.
Breach of the order may be considered to be a contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
The local authority’s trading standards officers began investigating Mr Mohamed after they received a number of complaints about the activities of the business.
Mr Mohamed displayed signs indicating VisitScotland accreditation at the premises and on a website, making unjustified claims to high standards and reliability.
Gordon Robb, trading standards manager at Highland Council explained: "This business had been found falsely displaying signs on two previous occasions and these were removed after intervention by our officers.
"The second time it happened we also received a formal undertaking from Mr Mohamed that it would not happen again. When the offending activity was repeated yet again, we took the matter to court"
Trading Standards Officers work closely with VisitScotland to ensure that visitors to the Highlands are not misled by false advertising or other misleading practices.
Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: "VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance schemes are the best in the world and they give visitors a simple, unbiased, approach which also allows businesses to not just meet visitor’s expectations, but exceed them. Therefore it is essential we work in close partnership with Trading Standards to help protect the credibility of VisitScotland quality grading in turn protecting the quality of the Highland tourism product."
Graham Phillips, chairman of the council’s Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee said: "The council views the good reputation of the tourist industry to be of great importance to the Highlands and recognise that the vast majority of tourist businesses provide excellent service to visitors.
"Our Trading Standards team is committed to protect both tourists and reputable businesses by dealing with the very small minority of tourist businesses who flout the law and where any business fails to take heed of advice and warnings about their conduct will where necessary take formal action in the courts."