ABTA will send out guidance to travel agents after receiving at least 30 calls from agencies following moves by credit card companies to withdraw merchant service agreements, leaving them unable to take credit card bookings.

The guidance, called ‘Risk factors for retail agents acting as sub-agents for accommodation-only suppliers’, will be made available to agents in the next week online and through its ABTA Today e-newsletter. A spokeswoman said dynamic packaging agents were those mainly affected.

ABTA has already held talks with the major credit card companies and so far has persuaded some to waive bonds they have demanded from some agencies.

A spokeswoman said: “We are working with the credit card companies to help them understand that some business models are more risky than others, therefore they cannot use a broad brush approach.

“One of the issues is about identifying the type of risk. We would like credit card companies to take a more sophisticated approach.”

She said the recent surge in problems was down to a lack of understanding by credit card companies on what is protected and who is responsible for refunding customers when an agency collapses.

ABTA redirected many Freedom Direct customers to their credit card companies for refunds. The spokeswoman added: “There is a perception that we try to avoid paying but that’s not true. When we are not responsible, we do not pay out. The biggest protection we offer is for pipeline monies [payments between agencies and suppliers] rather than consumers’ money.”

She urged ABTA members to contact the association with their concerns and not to leave ABTA.

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