Just days after Flight Centre Travel Group announced it would be dropping its cancellation fees, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has urged members to continue charging customers for cancellations where they are “allowed and reasonable”.
According to AFTA, the position Flight Centre is taking on fees shouldn’t serve as a broader industry position, nor “remove any ability for a travel agent to charge fees for service either in the booking or cancelling of travel”.
While no new laws have been passed, AFTA says, “Travel agents can, will and should continue to charge cancellation fees in line with the current legal framework”.
A video call between AFTA and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims confirmed that when it comes to cancellation fees, 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 states.
AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury said agents, “even in these very difficult times, are well within their legal rights to charge a fee for the services they render to a client”.
“Suppliers remunerate travel agents for booking travel and typically do not pay agents for time spent on cancellations,” he remarked.
“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.”
Mr Westbury added that while the new JobKeeper subsidy helps with agents’ incomes, it doesn’t contribute to agency operating costs or consumer compensation.
Information about cancellations and refunds can be found here.
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