With an upsurge in fraudulent activities in travel business and collapse of travel
agent businesses in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, the NSW Fair
Trading Commissioner has issued a cautionary advice to consumers making travel
arrangements. Mr. Rod Stowe, NSW Fair Trading Commissioner talks to Indus
Age. Excerpts from the interview:
Q1-Requiring a license for travel agent business was repealed, certainly to
foster travel facilities and services. What would you like to say about that?
This was a repose by that Government that was supposed to make changes in the
market place. Back in 1980s if you wanted to make arrangements for travel you
pretty much had to use an intermediary, you had to use a travel agent. And a whole
lot of money on behalf of clients costs what has changed in recent years
particularly with internet is that papers can go directly to suppliers and organized
travel arrangements. This has made, people who were travel agents were paying
additional costs their competitors weren’t paying. So, the Government decided to
deregulate the industry and also to dismantle the travel compensation fund which
was a safety net where travel agencies collapsed and consumers were affected.
Now, what is passed in law is any business that is involved in travel services has to
comply with consumer Australian travel law.They have to ensure that services are
provided in an appropriate way and there are penalties for things like misleading
consumers and, having unfair contract terms, and the like.
Q2-How has the revocation of license in travel business service affected
tourism of Australia?
I am probably not in a position to comment on its impact in respect of tourism
that’s is not a part of fair trading area of responsibility, but I suspect deregulating
the regulations actually meant that there’s greater competition and as far as agents
are concerned there’s reduction in Government cost that were imposed on those
businesses so, it has been very useful for the travel agencies that were previously
Q3- There has been an upsurge in fraudulent activities in the travel agent
business. How does the Government intend to check that?
There had been a number of travel agencies in recent times that have collapsed and
have caused damage, we currently have a national project where regulators are
regulating the market place, what’s changed since the deregulation.Similarly we
are working in partnership where we have choice the consumer organization over
concession who is being given grant to provide assistance to consumers about
procuring travel services.
Q4-Unscrupulous activities in the travel services affect the honest and genuine
travel agents as well. What are the steps taken to curb this?
The most important thing is giving information to consumers about what they need
to do when they go for travel products. I think the important development in the
market place has been accreditation schemes and ATAS which is the Australian
travel registration system for travel agents is very important. ATAS provides
accreditation schemes where there’s a code of conduct. This must abide by, they
must also have proper complain and handling processes so I think by the time
agencies are part of that accreditation scheme, consumers should be looking to the
provision and service.
Q5-How will a consumer know that it is ATAS approved travel agents
because when one goes online and buy tickets one doesn’t know whether the
travel agents are sitting in Australia or in some other country? How does one
know as ATAS approved?
Agents who are accredited are being encouraged to show their accreditation logo,
their ATAS logo. It’s important on part of the consumers who need to ask those
questions. They need to ask their supplier, their agent whether they are a member
of the accreditation scheme.The other thing can be, consumers can contact ATAS
and find out if the agency you are using is part of this scheme, so the consumer has
to do a bit of hardwork.
Q6-Will they find this information on the website of NSW Fair trading or they
have to go to ATAS?
They have to go to ATAS, there’s good general information that people can look
into for travel services. But when it comes to accreditation you have to go to
ATAS website, there’s a link from the fair trading website and make their enquiry.
Q7-What can be done to stop these mal practices in travel services?
Furthermore, what all actions have been taken against the agencies that have
There are investigations being undertaken in recent instances of malpractice. Those
agencies are still investigating those matters. I think importantly the consumers
have to do some hard work to protect themselves. So people should be made aware
of like, dealing with the accredited travel agent, also thinking about paying
methods one of the things is paying by cash is taken by the agent and have no
recalls. One of the strategies is like looking at payments like credit cards and if the
service is not delivered then you can go to financial institutions and seek a charge
back and have that money restored to your account, when you pay a small
surcharge by using a credit card it may be a very well way of protecting yourself
from those payments.
Q8-Creating awareness and warning against these activities is required to
protect innocent consumers. How do you intend to reach and educate end
One of my concern is the recent collapse of travel businesses in Australia or
elsewhere in targeting certain community and its very important to get those
messages to the community so we are using our partners in those areas to get the
message across, making sure that people are aware of the potential risks, taking
precautions they can so that they can protect themselves.
Q9- What would you like to say to the consumers of Indus Age?
Anyone who wants more information about the things we have been talking can go
to our fair trading website which has a very comprehensive information about
travel services or ring us at 133220 at general enquiry number.We also have a
facebook page where people can give us one to one information.