There are two groups (and two sets of acronyms) in this story. The ACCC you probably know. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission promotes fair trade and competition. AFTA (The Australian Federation of Travel Agents) represents the country’s retail travel agents.
As you can imagine, over the last year these two bodies have been working pretty closely as we all try to get our money back for travel we couldn’t take.
But here’s the thing. According to AFTA, travel agents have successfully repatriated $6 billion in refunds and credits from overseas airlines, hotels and tour operators for Australian consumers. They have been doing this time consuming and frustrating work FOR FREE while having to continue to fund operating costs including GDS fees and insurances to allow this to happen.
Many don’t seem to get this and some have complained to the ACCC. But the ACCC, while clear that consumers are entitled to some sort of recompense, are now asking consumers to look to the terms and conditions.
“Terms and conditions will vary between travel providers, and in some cases consumers might not be entitled to a full, or any, refund of their booking,” the ACCC website advises.
The consumer body warns that “travel providers should act in accordance with the terms and conditions that were in place at the time a consumer made their booking, and if they do not, they may be engaging in misleading conduct under the Australian Consumer Law”.
“We are very pleased to see the ACCC have now updated their website with key additions that will assist travel agents by providing consumers with a more balanced and realistic approach to manage their travel, particularly in terms of refunds,” AFTA CEO Darren Rudd said.
“In supporting our agents through this difficult time it is critical consumers are being provided with the right information and updates. We are confident the updates on the ACCC website will help manage expectations around COVID travel bookings and refunds moving forward.”
Seventy percent of international travel in Australia is booked through travel agents, keeping money in Australia and generating taxes to benefit the Australian economy. These are predominantly independently owned, small businesses. And 71% of the sector are women.
So next time you want to support a local business, remember your travel agent. Especially now.
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