AFTA View – April 2011

Consumer protection: Time for our politicians to show decisive leadership

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Jason WestburyConsumer protection: Time for our politicians to show decisive leadership

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents

THINGS are moving quickly for a change as the final stages of the review into consumer protection in the travel industry come to a head.

Last month I mentioned the release of the consultation paper for the next round of the review and I am pleased to report that AFTA has prepared a detailed and professionally prepared submission to this next phase. A copy is on the home page of the website.

All the evidence, all the reports, all the data and all the information clearly point to reform and significant change to the way consumer protection is provided in the travel industry.

All that is needed now is for the government side of the process to provide the leadership to make these changes happen.

In basic terms what is proposed is that state based licensing is replaced with a voluntary industry-owned accreditation scheme, and that consumer protection is provided by the new Australian Consumer Law which was adopted by all states and territories in January 2011.

The industry support for these changes is extensive and for good reason. If we don’t get the regulations right, travel agents will continue to find it more and more difficult to compete on a global stage both with other travel agents who are not Australian companies and, more importantly, with the suppliers of travel products who sell directly.

A level playing field is what is needed; the reforms outlined in the consultation paper, supported by the Federal Treasury, supported by the wide majority of the travel industry and being considered by the state governments are the right thing for the future of a robust, competitive and successful travel industry.

These reforms also provide the consumer with the protection of the new national Australian Consumer Laws which are the bedrock of consumer protection in all other industries. Travel need not have any additional layers as the evidence collected and reported in the various reports and submissions demonstrates.

This process has gone on for a long time. Every time I write something about this I start to doze off, I can only imagine how you the readers must feel.

What we now need are for our politicians to provide some real leadership in this area, make the decision to accept all the information presented to them and Make A Decision to change. AFTA has done everything it can to present the industry’s position. We have put considerable effort into our submissions, to talking with stakeholders, government and the membership.

AFTA has dedicated considerable resources to this process as the industry has been calling for change for a very long time, and now what we need is action.

It is now over to the elected representatives of the parliaments of the states of Australia to make this happen.

The next meeting for the Ministerial Council of Consumer Affairs Ministers is set for June 2011. All that we all can hope for now is that they [the Ministers] show the leadership we all want them to show.

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.





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