ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer has reassured online travel agents (OTAs) that their status as agents will not be affected by proposed changes to financial protection.
Last week, ABTA revealed its members had voted “overwhelmingly” to have flight-only and ‘click-through’ purchases on the internet included under financial protection rules. The association is to advocate an overhaul of consumer protection in its response to the European Commission’s (EC) consultation on the Package Travel Directive (PTD).
The ABTA submission to the EC consultation will also suggest any travel organiser who assembles and sells such arrangements should be responsible for the protection of the customer’s money.
However, OTAs – namely On The Beach and Advantage member Holiday Discount Centre – oppose ABTA’s submission, raising concerns about a one-size-fits-all solution. OTAs now also offer supplier failure insurance, meaning the consumer is fully protected, they argue.
Leading independent UK online travel agencies said expanding the scope of consumer protection threatened their agency status and would push consumers away from the trade.
On The Beach finance director Geoff Wood said: “I think a one-size-fits-all solution has a number of flaws.”
Holiday Discount Centre managing director Steve Campion said the existing regulatory system should not be expanded but ripped up and reformulated to reflect how customers are behaving.
Tanzer said OTAs, which are not currently covered by ATOL, were primarily concerned about the cost implications of financial protection as well as the costs of implementing a new system.
Tanzer said: “What we are proposing does not mean they cannot carry on as agents. It is not part of our submission. Everybody should have a responsibility to protect people’s money. The more people brought into the ATOL scheme the lower the cost of protection.”
ABTA members will start receiving questionnaires this week calling for views on the EC Air Passenger Rights consultation and the UK government ATOL consultation. ABTA members need to respond by February 12.
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