Spread the love

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) remains firm on the need for cancellation fees to be charged where they are allowed and reasonable.

AFTA continues to support both travel agents and the public in understanding what is appropriate and why cancellation fees are necessary.

Nothing in the recent announcements by the ACCC regarding one travel company’s change to its cancellation policy can, or should, be taken as a broader industry position, nor should it remove any ability for a travel agent to charge fees for service either in the booking or cancelling of travel.

No new laws have been passed, nor has the ACCC placed any sanctions, or given any formal position, which should be read as a blanket interpretation of how travel agents may charge fees during the COVID19 pandemic.

Travel agents can, will and should continue to charge cancellation fees in line with the current legal framework.

AFTA has taken part in a zoom call with Chairman of the ACCC Mr Sims where it was made clear that travel agents should look to their terms and conditions and that the matter is in fact a contractual one given that the consumer guarantees do not apply in light of the government intervention.  Where a reasonable fee is charged either via the terms and conditions or where the COVID19 pandemic gives rise to a frustrated contact, as long as this is not misleading or excessive then a charge is a reasonable thing to do.

AFTA will continue with an open dialog with the ACCC via the ACCC COVID19 Taskforce and will look to the ACCC to deliver clear and concise guidance upon which both travel agents and consumers can rely.

Quotes attributable to Jayson Westbury, Chief Executive AFTA

“Hard working Australians who work every day for their clients in a travel agency, even in these very difficult times, are well within their legal rights to charge a fee for the services they render to a client. This includes applying a cancellation fee where either 1) the terms and conditions indicate that it applies; or 2) where the clients request changes to their bookings which require significantly more time from the agent and where the agent will not be remunerated in any way by the supplier. Suppliers remunerate travel agents for booking travel and typically do not pay agents for time spent on cancellations.”

“As many consumers have found out during this pandemic, the cancellation process is not simple. In the current market, the time needed to cancel often complex itineraries, negotiate with multiple suppliers, establish and read the plethora of supplier-issued terms and conditions and work out what is in the client’s best interest and then action an outcome takes significant time. In these circumstances, it is completely unreasonable to expect any agent to work for free.”

“The government JobKeeper support may contribute to the wages of a travel agent, but it does not contribute a cent to the other operating costs associated with running a travel agency including supporting consumers needing cancellations or credits.”

“Travel agents are legally entitled to charge fees and the ACCC has today given clear indication that this is the case where the circumstances are covered by terms and conditions or where a potential frustrated contract might exist.”

“As if the travel industry is not having a difficult time along with all our clients and customers in dealing with the travel restrictions and travel bans, what we all need is clarity and understanding during these complex and difficult times.”

“AFTA remains confident that constructive mutual dialog with the ACCC Taskforce will help bring greater clarity to the many issues faced by travel agents and their customers at this time.”