National reforms in the travel industry will see the repeal of travel agents’ legislation in mid-2014. This means that as of 1 July 2014, travel agents in Australia will no longer be required to hold a licence. Consumers however, will continue to have protections under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and other generic incorporation laws, as well as industry led mechanisms and market based remedies such as credit card charge-backs.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) have developed the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) that sets a benchmark of quality for the travel industry. The accreditation scheme is open to all travel intermediaries that buy and sell travel. This scheme benchmarks applicants against a range of criteria. Those that meet the requirements are awarded national accreditations that will allow them to use the ATAS branding as a symbol of quality and professionalism.
More information can be found here: ATAS
For those consumers that are considering travelling it pays to be vigilant when choosing a method to organise the travel. Always research the company that you are considering using, check for blogs or other feedback regarding that website and ensure you have travel protections, for example travel insurance.
When choosing a travel agent:
• Choose an agent or supplier with insolvency insurance and ask how it protects your specific travel plans if things go wrong so you are protected against the collapse of any business in the supply chain.
• When booking travel, you have rights under the Australian Consumer Law for all purchases, but when a company goes bankrupt, or is based overseas, it can be difficult to get your money back. If you book with a credit card, contact your bank for a charge back if things go wrong.
• Like any other large purchase, do your homework when purchasing travel and accommodation and ensure you are protected should things not go as planned.
• Look for an agent who is accredited or who has received a similar stamp of approval as they will have had to go through an approval process and will have dispute resolution options in place.
• Does the agent listen to what you have to say and what you want, do they answer your questions and make appropriate suggestions and explain the terms and conditions? If not, go to another agent.
• If you buy your travel online, consider using an Australian based business as it may be difficult to obtain a solution or a refund from an overseas company if something were to go wrong.
• Ensure that the online company has basic security measures in place, such as a padlock symbol and ‘https://’.
• Before you purchase online, check their terms and conditions and ensure they have clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds.