AFTA View – March 2011

Consumer protection – much to like about PwC report and consultation paper

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Jason WestburyConsumer protection – much to like about PwC report and consultation paper

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents

THE long-awaited report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on the review of consumer protection in the travel industry has arrived. If you are yet to read a copy of the almost 200 page report, you can download it from the home page.

It is compelling reading for everyone in the travel industry regardless of your position or role as this document has the potential to re-shape the way the Australian travel industry is regulated on a national basis. When you open the report and read the key messages and recommendations, I am sure you will see what I mean.

The gestation period of an Asian elephant is 616 days (average) and it has taken that long from when the review was first announced by the Ministerial Council to actually have the report released.

The truth of it is that the PwC report was completed in July 2010. It has taken until March 1 for it to be released to the industry and the public. Why? We will never know.

At least now we have the report and I am very pleased that the majority of the findings fully support many of the aspects of the AFTA policy and assertions contained within our submission.

The next phase in this process is the simultaneous release of the Consultation Paper which will inform the Regulatory Impact Statement being prepared by the Standing Committee of Consumer Affairs Officials. This process will run over the next month or so.

Hopefully, a final set of recommendations will be made by the Consumer Affairs officials (the bureaucrats) to the Ministerial Council (the politicians) at the next meeting which is scheduled for June 2011.

The consultation paper is also available on the website. This paper distils the findings of the PwC report and proposes several options for how the travel industry could be regulated and how consumer protection might be provided into the future within the travel industry.

Interestingly, the PwC report suggests in its conclusions that an option for an industry-led regulation around an accreditation scheme (AFTA’s policy) has merit and should be given further consideration.
Thie is based on the sound evidence provided within the PwC report, which, it should be pointed out was, an independent review funded by the federal and state governments, not AFTA.

In addition to this finding, the consultation paper says the removal of the TCF has merit and should be given further consideration. Consumer protection would then rely on Australian Consumer Law which now has a national standard.

This important point highlights AFTA’s policy that the TCF has served its purpose well over the years but change is needed.

AFTA will once again be using the services of KPMG to prepare a sound submission.

There is still some work to be done to get a final outcome but it would appear that governments and, just as importantly, their bureaucrats see the need for change and now have the independent evidence and supporting report to make informed decisions.

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.





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