Abta welcomes simplified Atol procedures

Abta has welcomed recommendations aimed at cutting delays in handling Atol claims that include a call for improvements in the paperwork issued by travel agents, who must now disclose all mark-ups and discounts negotiated with licensed suppliers.

A report on claims handling procedures by former chief financial ombudsman Walter Merricks concluded the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should simplify the process for validating claims because many claims take months to settle.

Merricks was commissioned to carry out a review by the CAA in light of the delays in handling claims following the collapse of XL Leisure Group in 2008.

Among its recommendations, the report says the CAA should consider using online technology and tracking systems, improve its preparations for a large-scale future failure and work with the industry to improve agents’ documentation. It comes days after a significant change in Air Travel Trust (ATT) rules on agents’ paperwork.

The ATT, which pays out to holidaymakers following an Atol-holder’s failure, amended its payment policy from May 1 to make clear it will not pay out where agents have failed to issue both an Atol receipt and an Atol confirmation invoice and “clearly disclosed the price of the contract with the identified licence holder” – including any mark-ups or discounts in price.

Abta said it would work closely with the CAA “to ensure future paperwork requirements are clear, easy to follow and do not obstruct the basic purpose of the Atol scheme to provide consumer protection”.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Customer confidence in the scheme has been undermined by the long time taken to process claims following several significant failures.”

CAA director of consumer protection Richard Jackson said: “The travel industry has a major role to play in ensuring paperwork issued to consumers improves, removing the need for complex and prolonged claims management.”

Merricks’ report comes ahead of proposed reform of the Atol regulations to create a ‘flight plus’ licence to extend protection to sales of dynamically packaged holidays. The Department for Transport is finalising a consultation document on the proposals, with the CAA at the same time moving to introduce an Atol Certificate for issue to holidaymakers.

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