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Haggle with agents when booking – that’s official advice

October 24, 2014 Corporate, Headline News 4 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59CHOICE, the non-profit consumer advocacy group previously known as the Australian Consumers Association, has written and released a government-backed guide to buying travel insurance that advises consumers to haggle with travel agents over the price of policies when booking travel.

The hefty commissions that agents receive for selling travel insurance make haggling worthwhile, the guide advises.

The CHOICE Travel Insurance Buying Guide, launched by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop yesterday, was commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). It advises consumers to shop online and to “bamboozle” customer service staff and “make your travel agent think about what it is they’re selling you”.

Up to one in five Australians who travelled overseas in the past two years did so without insurance and the guide aims to reverse that. But it doesn’t exactly show agents in a good light. unnamed (6)

An excerpt:

  • Haggle. High commissions leave plenty of room to negotiate. When booking a tour through a travel agent, for example, CHOICE member Ursula was told the tour operator required her to buy insurance, offering her a policy at a 10% discount. Ursula shopped around and found a cheaper online policy with another insurer. When she told the travel agent she’d found a cheaper policy, the consultant said he’d beat the price, even before hearing what it was!
  • Buy online. While not all policies are discounted online, plenty are. Make sure you understand the policy and what it insures. Cover is sometimes reduced with online policies, so make sure a lower price doesn’t mean reduced cover. Check the agent has an Australian financial services (AFS) licence or is an authorised representative of a licence holder by checking with ASIC . Take the usual precautions when giving your credit card and other details over the internet.”

The guide also answers consumer questions, like this:

  • Question one: If your travel agent has taken your money but goes broke before they handed the funds over to the airlines and hotels you’ve booked, how many travel insurance policies will reimburse you for lost funds?

 Answer: None. But all is not lost, as travel agents can take out their own insolvency insurance. This is optional however, so if you’re booking through a travel agent, ask them if they’ve taken out a policy.

  • Question two: If your travel agent goes broke and leaves you out of pocket, and they didn’t have insolvency insurance, are you able to get your money back some other way?

Answer: Yup. Some banks will give consumers a “chargeback” if they pay for something on their credit card and don’t end up actually getting it. But if you pay using cash or Eftpos (by selecting cheque or savings) you cannot get chargeback. Travel agents cannot require you to give up your right to chargeback; our consumer protection agencies are likely to treat this as an unfair contract term. To be safe, don’t accept any contract terms that require giving up chargeback rights.

The guide can be downloaded free as a PDF file by clicking here. http://www.choice.com.au/~/media/Files/Money/Insurance/Travel%20Insurance/CHOICE%20Travel%20Insurance%20Buying%20Guide.ashx

CHOICE appears to be increasingly involved in travel. Following the deregulation of travel agents at the start of July, CHOICE surprised the industry by announcing it had reached agreement with state and territory ministers to set up a new Consumer Travel Hub project, which it said would be launched later this year.

Even more of a surprise, the funding, AUD 2.8 million over four-and-a-half years, would be provided from the now-defunct Travel Compensation Fund (TCF).

“This matches the funding already provided to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents to set up a voluntary self-accreditation scheme from 1 July 2014,” CHOICE said at the time.

The Consumer Travel Hub is designed to provide a mix of research, tailored information, education campaigns and advocacy “to significantly improve the experience of Australian consumers in the travel market”.

“With a planned launch date of late 2014, the hub will identify issues with travel providers, products and services, and bring these issues to the attention of governments, regulators and industry,” a CHOICE statement said.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Honest tour guides read over policies and contact their colleagues for recommendations of insurance policies covering modern conditions; such as, riots, terrorism, etc.. Anyone who gives back any part of their commissions is an idiot! We work hard as TAs and we deserve every penny.

    Because travel agents played games with their commissions and caused us to lose them entirely. If a cruise line hears that you give back any part of your commission they remove you from their booking list in the USA.

    If a traveler has nothing else to do they will research and we have no control over that but a good travel agent will be able to explain the difference of one policy over another.

  2. ITG, iTalkTravel and Select travel agents do have a travel insurance policy that covers travel agent default.

    Express Travel Insurance (QBE product)
    What is covered?
    We will cover you for the financial default of your travel agent, scheduled services airlines, hotels resorts operators and theme park operators.
    What is not covered?
    1. There is no cover under this benefit for the financial default of a wholesaler.
    It is available on International Travel Plan, Essentials Travel Plan, Annual Multi Trip Travel Plan, Australian Travel Plan.
    It is not available on Bare Essentials Travel Plan, Inbound Travel Plan, Australian Cancellation and Additional Expenses Travel Plan.
    So consumers need to be aware of exactly what they are purchasing with their travel insurance and whether in fact getting a cheaper price really benefits in the end if the cover does not include this. Travel agents already know this.
    It is wholesalers that need to have insolvency cover and that is something I would love all the consortiums to make a requirement for all their wholesale preferred partners; something most agents are never really informed about but should be.

  3. Duncan Adams says:

    Narelle, your comments are accurate and welcome, thanks! The Express Travel Insurances groups you note (Independent Travel Group members, Select Travel Group members & italktravel franchisee retailers) do have Agency failure insurance available to cover consumers for insolvency of their travel Agent. It is a QBE product as you state.

    An important point for consumers when dealing with a retailer (travel & elsewhere) is to ensure you are issued a receipt for the payment of the insurance policy. An under-writer will naturally want this evidence when a claim arises, so Agents as well as AFTA and government bodies should encourage consumers to request receipts as they transact.

  4. Robyn says:

    It advises consumers to shop online and to “bamboozle” customer service staff and “make your travel agent think about what it is they’re selling you”.
    WTF, Choice what IQ are you driving these comments at ?? I have an IQ of 130, I really dont think I will be Bamboozled by anyones comments – unless of course its yours which are just bizarre and so unprofessional!

    Seriously this crap just makes my blood boil- Ursula unless you understood the 80 pages of your insurance policy, you should have either booked with a broker or a travel agent.

    Choice – You are paid handsomely (over $5m) for your unbiased comments – lets keep them that way – otherwise we will calculate your “commission” which as it stands is over $100,000 a comment – now thats what I call a commission !!!

    Lets keep to the facts shall we !

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