ABTA is to issue legal guidance to agents following the introduction of a bidding ‘free-for-all’ on trademarks on Google.

The news comes as the association confirmed head of legal Simon Bunce attended a secret meeting of representatives from travel and consumer brands to discuss legal action against Google over changes to its advertising trademark policy, as revealed by Travel Weekly’s sister title Travolution.

ABTA could not reveal whether the code of conduct would change as part of its new guidance or result in an outright ban on bidding on company brand names, but said an announcement was imminent.

The guidance will be issued within a fortnight and will aim to clear up confusion over whether agents are breaking the law by using other companies’ trademarks as part of the bidding process on Google.

“The way the law stands you cannot use other people’s trademarks on your website if you start to do that then we believe, theoretically, it’s against the law. But Google is allowing companies to do that on its site,” said an ABTA spokeswoman.

Google changed its policy at the start of the month to allow companies to bid against rivals’ trademarks.

Online agency Travel Republic, which has lost business since the change, said it would welcome ABTA’s guidance.

Managing director Paul Furner said: “We are supportive of any efforts by ABTA to police this issue and bring order to the chaos.”

Teletext Holidays is continuing to take legal proceedings against Directline Holidays and has already threatened other companies which are ‘piggybacking’ on its name through Google.

Managing director Matt Cheevers said: “I would welcome ABTA’s view, it is in a difficult position. Why should we let others piggyback us for free? We will take any action we can to stop that.”