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Australian travellers urged to pack some peace of mind

September 1, 2014 Corporate, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Australians dreaming of their summer holiday are being encouraged to “pack some peace of mind” when booking their next trip.

A new initiative by Australia’s consumer protection agencies is reminding people of their protections under the Australian Consumer Law, and the simple steps they can take to protect their travel and holiday bookings.

Dr Claire Noone, Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, says that increased competition and the growth of online bookings has changed the way people plan and purchase their trips. “For some people, booking a holiday might be a quick and simple process, while others put a lot of time and effort into planning their trips.”

“We know that Australians love travelling, both in our country and outside of it,” Noone says.

Statistics show that Australians made nine million trips overseas in the past year.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday dream and forget about the simple precautions you should be taking to protect your purchase.”

“Reputation and customer service is a really simple way of making sure that your holiday is going to be a great one,” Noone adds. unnamed

“Look at reviews, get onto social media and ask friends for their recommendations. If you are booking with a travel agent, check that they are accredited, for example, under the ATAS logo. The Australian Federation of Travel Agents, which administers ATAS, can help you find an accredited agent. Remember, any business you book with, either in person or online, should have clearly stated refund and complaint handling policies.”

Consumers can also protect themselves by choosing how they pay for their travel.

“Credit cards often attract surcharges, but this can be a small price to pay as they offer chargeback protections, which consumers can seek from their bank if they don’t get what they paid for.”

Chargebacks may be available on purchases made with credit cards or with Mastercard or Visa debit cards when ‘credit’ is selected. Chargeback are not available when paying with ‘cheque’ or ‘savings’ on debit cards, cash, cheque, money transfer, direct debit or BPAY.

Holidaymakers are strongly encouraged to take out comprehensive travel insurance, and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by their policies.

Reforms impacting the travel industry 

Australia’s consumer protection agencies are advising consumers that On 1 July 2014, the licensing system for travel agents was removed in most states and territories, with Tasmania and Western Australia expected to enact the reforms in the next two months.

This followed the approval in late 2012 of a Travel Industry Transition Plan, which can be viewed at www.consumerlaw.gov.au/travel.

A fact sheet on the reforms runs as follows:

Protecting Australian Travel Consumers

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) protects consumers when they buy goods and services, including travel. The ACL sets out a range of ‘consumer guarantees’, which include:

•           Provision of services with due care and skill

•           Supply of products that are of acceptable quality and match the description

•           Supply of products and services that are reasonably fit for the purpose specified.

Supplier contracts must also not contain any unfair terms.

The new ‘Pack Some Peace of Mind’ campaign, an initiative of Australia’s consumer protection agencies, aims to ensure consumers take the right steps to protect their travel purchases.

When booking travel, consumers should take simple steps to protect themselves in the same way they would for any purchase. 

How can I further protect my travel purchase?

When using a travel agent, consumers should:

•           Look for an agent who is accredited through the Australian Travel Agents Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) or has received another stamp of approval, as these companies are required to meet certain professional standards and criteria (including adhering to a code of conduct), and will have dispute resolution options in place

•           Seek the advice of family and friends before choosing a service provider- reputation is often indicative of best practice

•           Look for an agent who advertises their services and any deals clearly

•           Find an agent who listens closely to what they want, answers any questions, makes appropriate suggestions, and explains any terms and conditions regarding the purchase.

When booking through online sellers, consumers should:

•           Ensure the seller has a good reputation, for example, through word of mouth or reading reviews on online travel websites and blogs

•           Ensure the seller includes their contact details, such as a phone number and email address, on their website

•           Look for basic online security features, such a padlock symbol and address on the website payments page starting with ‘https://’

•           Ensure the seller displays clear processes for solving problems and has a clearly stated refund and complaints policy

•           Note that all consumer rights apply when shopping, for travel or otherwise, with an Australian online business. These rights may also apply when purchasing from an overseas business, although consumers may find it more difficult to find a resolution or receive a refund.

The Australian Government urges Australians to organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by the policy: smartraveller.gov.au/tips/insurance.html

What if the booking does not go as planned?

Consumers who feel that they have not received what they paid for should firstly contact the agent or business. If they are not able to contact the business or are unable to gain a satisfactory resolution, consumers have a number of options:

•           Where the booking was made through an ATAS-accredited agent, seek dispute resolution support through the accreditation scheme

•           Where a credit card or the ‘credit’ option on a Mastercard or Visa debit card was used to make the travel purchase, contact their bank to find out if they’re eligible for a chargeback

•           If the problem is with a participating airline, contact the Airline Customer Advocate directly (airlinecustomeradvocate.com.au)

•           For advice about consumer protections under the Australian Consumer Law, when travel-related services and products are purchased, contact the consumer protection agency in their state or territory.

For further information, visit the campaign website at www.packsomepeaceofmind.gov.au

When can I seek a chargeback?

A consumer may be able to seek a chargeback if they pay online or on the phone with a credit card, or Mastercard or Visa debit card (which uses the consumer’s own money but protects them from loss in the same way as a credit card transaction).

For in-store purchases, chargebacks may apply if a consumer pays with a credit card, Mastercard or Visa debit card, and selects ‘credit’. By selecting ‘credit’ as the account type, the consumer is using their own money but Mastercard or Visa protects the transaction.

A consumer should seek a chargeback as soon as possible, as time limits apply.

A consumer cannot get a chargeback if they pay by ‘cheque’ or ‘savings’ on their debit card, cash, cheque, money transfer, direct debit or BPAY.

Edited by : Peter Needham

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