Following disquiet among travel agents over the issue, NSW Fair Trading yesterday made a small but important change to a media release it issued in August headed “Warning on Travel Bookings”.
News of the correction may take a while to filter out, however.
The release refers to a spate of travel agent collapses in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, which led the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner to issue cautionary advice to consumers making travel arrangements.
The original media release read: “In these instances consumers who paid cash for travel services lost their money when the agent failed to pass funds on to suppliers or cancelled booked travel arrangements and kept the refunds.
Several agents contacted Global Travel Media objecting to the section that we have italicised above.
That section was factually incorrect, they pointed out, as it had been widely reported in travel industry media that two of the collapsed agents, CTS Travel Services and Travel Rockhampton, were accredited under the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (ATAS) scheme.
The original release left the impression that membership of an industry accreditation scheme provides a level of booking security which it evidently doesn’t.
NSW Fair Trading has now acknowledged its earlier error. The new version of the release, issued yesterday, says: “A number of these businesses specialised in providing travel services to particular community groups and most of the agents were not members of an industry accreditation scheme.”
The release can be viewed here. https://www.finance.nsw.gov.au/about-us/media-releases/warning-travel-bookings
It will take a while, if ever, for other websites that carried the original release to make the correction.
NSW Seniors Card eNews, for instance, still had the original wording on its website this morning: http://enews.seniorscard.nsw.gov.au/link/id/zzzz55dd3ce2beb4d581/page.html#zzzz55dd307cee516260
Readers of the original wording might think that membership of an industry accreditation scheme is an ironclad guarantee that an agent is secure and their money is safe. As recent history shows, that assumption would be wrong.
Written by Peter Needham