NSW Fair Trading warning on travel bookings

NSW Fair Trading warning on travel   bookings

11Compiled by-Nidhi Kumari

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Q1-Requiring a license for travel agent business was repealed, certainly to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

controlled.

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

duped consumers?

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

users?

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.

(Website: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au)

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