Agents warned over excursion liability

Agents who put together dynamic packages including excursions could face more compensation claims when things go wrong, experts have warned.

Recent court cases have spread responsibility for customer safety to include companies which promote excursions as well as those that run them.

And although that primarily affects operators, it also serves as a warning for companies fudging whether they act as agents or principals.

Speaking at an Abta seminar, Cynthia Barbor, senior partner at law firm K&L Gates, said: “A lot of holiday companies want to sell in their own name but do not want to accept responsibility if there is a problem.”

Barbor highlighted the case brought against Inghams by a customer who is now wheelchair-bound following a skidoo accident. A court in February found the operator partially liable. Barbor said decisions such as this amounted to a shift in the law.

“Operators sold excursions in the happy belief they could deny liability if something went wrong, and used their reps to advertise excursions,” she said. “But there has been a shift in the way courts look at excursions.”

Barrister Sarah Prager warned that operators in particular could see a rise in claims. She said: “Tour operators are liable for what happens on excursions where their rep is present and might have intervened.

“Reps are going to have to be more proactive or not go on excursions.”

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