Coronavirus: Abta and consortia pledge to reinstate payment systems

Abta, The Advantage Travel Partnership and The Global Travel Group have pledged to reinstate their payments systems as soon as possible after they were suspended within hours of each other last week.

Decisions to turn off Abta’s Single Payment System (SPS) and Advantage’s Central Advantage Payment System (CAPS) were announced on Friday after the businesses grew concerned about the number of refunds being processed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Both legacy platforms, which have each existed for around 20 years, were struggling to cope with the volume of refunds being issued by suppliers to agents and an increasing number of direct debit mandates for agents.

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The systems are primarily used to facilitate net payments between agents and suppliers once commission has been taken.

John de Vial, Abta’s director of financial protection and financial services, said: “The safe thing to do was to freeze and just allow the previous week’s cycle to complete and not allow a new cycle. It was a function of these extraordinary circumstances. We want to reinstate it as soon as we can.”

He said agents and operators would have to make individual bank transfers while SPS was suspended.

Paul Nunn, Advantage’s operations director, said the decision had not been taken lightly and the consortium was working “tirelessly” to “modify” CAPS, which is used by around 45 suppliers and 280 agents.

“The way the system operates behind the scenes posed risks to Advantage,” he said. “We sit in the middle and we are responsible for those payments flowing through correctly.

“We are proactively looking at ways at bring the platform back up so there is no risk for all parties.”

Global suspended its commission payment system to protect its nearly 300 agent members and “future-proof” its business. Managing director Andy Stark said the suspension “removed the immediate pressure [on agents] to repay commissions”.

None of the three bodies could give a date for when the suspension of their system would be lifted.

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