Goldtrail Holidays: Teletext questioned invoice change

Teletext has revealed it was questioning a change in the invoices issued by collapsed Turkey specialist Goldtrail Holidays before it went out of business last week.

The online retailer is among a raft of agents with Atols battling demands from the CAA for £150 for every one of its passengers repatriated after it emerged Goldtrail invoices were changed in December so business was being done on an Atol to Atol basis.

Goldtrail failed on Friday with 16,000 customers abroad and 150,000 forward bookings in a collapse estimated to cost the CAA up to £20 million, the biggest since XL Leisure Group in 2008.

Agents are furious after the collapse highlighted a change in Goldtrail’s invoicing, believed to have been made in December, which they were not told about. This change gave the appearance business was being conducted on an Atol-to-Atol basis.

Even agents without Atols are understood to have had their invoicing changed. Some agents appear to have realised Goldtrail made the change and took out supplier failure insurance, others were alerted to it only after the operator failed.

The CAA sent a letter to agencies on Monday asking them to sign a declaration by 5pm agreeing to repay the CAA £150 plus tax for each passenger it brought home.

But, as revealed on Tuesday, agents have refused to sign it saying they are not liable as they were dealing with Goldtrail as a retail agent.

Victoria Sanders, Teletext Holidays managing director, said it was disputing the invoice change with Goldtrail before it went out of business. She has now taken up the issue with the CAA.

Sanders said: “We were challenging Goldtrail but just got nowhere. The CAA is saying we will get your customers back but you have to foot the bill.

“We need some clear guidance now. We are trying to work in the correct way but this has thrown up a real anomaly.”

Sanders added the invoicing issue has prompted Teletext to audit its trading agreements with suppliers to make sure simimlar chages have not been made.

It is not clear why Goldtrail made the change, but it appears it could have been to reduce the number of £2.50 per passenger Atol Protection Contribution payments it was expected to make.

However, Sanders said Teletext was not made aware of the change, no new contract was issued and the company was still paying Goldtrail out of its Abta account through the trade association single payment system.

She described the Goldtrail invoices as “confusing” because they still included Abta details but also indicated business was being done on an Atol to Atol basis.

Teletext, and other agents, will continue to argue their case with the CAA, but Sanders said if it is forced to pay it will have to make a claim on the supplier failure cover it had taken out on Goldtrail.

Abta head of legal services Simon Bunce said: “We have concerns about bookings intended to be retail sales that were invoiced mistakenly as Atol-to-Atol sales. If invoices were issued mistakenly they should not be treated as binding.”

A spokesman for the CAA said it was investigating Goldtrail’s trading arrangements. “An announcement will be made about these issues shortly,” he said.

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