Last week Travel Counsellors entered into the debate around consumer protection, highlighting the need for the industry to ensure consumers are fully informed about how their funds are protected, as the negative consumer awareness surrounding the ongoing travel agency collapses continues to grow.
A move that has been highly welcomed by TravelManagers’ Chairman Barry Mayo.
“TravelManagers has long been a lone voice speaking for many similar minded travel agents around the concerns of inadequate consumer protection provided for consumers, following the disbandment of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) almost two years ago. We congratulate Travel Counsellors speaking out by identifying the need for the industry to ensure consumers are ‘fully’ informed about consumer protection and for challenging other travel agents to match the ‘full’ protection under its “Your Money’s Safe” claim.”
Mayo has long been an advocate of encouraging robust discussion and debate as a way for state governments to recognise the shortcomings of their decision to deregulate travel agencies.
“TravelManagers congratulate Travel Counsellors’ contribution and see this as a further opportunity for the travel industry to constructively debate the many resulting issues of the government’s deregulation of travel agents and other travel intermediaries. We see this as a positive result for consumers.”
In Travel Counsellors article, David Hughes Managing Director of Travel Counsellors Australia has stated he “believes that all travel companies and agents should offer full financial protection to their customers and not expect the government to cover the slack.“
Mayo has a slightly different view.
“TravelManagers has never advocated the government provide funds to cover consumer protection. Travel Counsellors takes the stance that the industry should not expect government to cover consumers against industry failures. However, this has never been the case, the government provided legislation in 1986 for an industry funded organization to operate a consumer protection scheme on behalf of all travel intermediaries and not only protect consumers against losses but the integrity of the all travel agents and other Australian-based travel intermediaries as a whole.”
Mayo has and continues to be critical of state governments abandoning licensing and the TCF without ensuring an appropriate and affordable replacement for consumer protection was in place.
“Where the approximately $23 million of residual funds in the TCF are concerned, TravelManagers has questioned the state governments’ position that these funds contributed by travel agents and other travel intermediaries will be distributed in line with the TCF Trust Deed amongst themselves when there is no satisfactory consumer protection in place.”
Mayo is also quick to point out that the TCF was not perfect.
“Its cost impact on the industry may not have always been fairly distributed but what the TCF did offer consumers was protection against travel intermediary insolvency that was consistent and universal. The TCF delivered consumer protection where consumers had not receive prepaid products and services booked through a travel agent and other Australian-based travel intermediaries.”
Mayo strongly believes that where consumer protection is concerned, there needs to be total transparency.
“TravelManagers is of the distinct view that all travel agency guarantees that consumers are protected against insolvency are fully communicated and explained in detail. Information as to exactly what cover is provided, the circumstances in which it applies, how it’s funded and how it would be administered in the event of the demise of that agent or, particularly where coverage extends to suppliers, how in the event of the collapse of an extraordinary large supplier this will be funded. This is absolutely vital in retaining client credibility. There should be a benchmark for the industry as a whole, which I believe, would greatly assist with the transparency consumers are looking for.”
Mayo reiterates the fact that in protecting consumers from travel agent failure to provide prepaid and contracted services the TCF also protected the travel agent community’s integrity ensuring consumer confidence in dealing with the many professional and well-administered travel agents was maintained.
“The continued negative consumer media reports are damaging to us all as a collective industry. Urgent change is needed and will only occur with continued discussion around the issues and collective lobbying of government. We welcome Travel Counsellors in taking up this debate and encourage more travel companies to also voice their concerns. Together with a consistent voice, we can make the change consumers are looking for – to have peace of mind around their funds when booking their holiday through a travel agency.”