Audits to end as TCF oversight winds down

Issues & Trends – June 2013

Audits to end as TCF oversight winds down

TRAVEL agents will not be required to submit a financial return and audited accounts to the Travel Compensation Fund, sources assured travelBulletin at press time.

The removal of the burden is part of the transition from TCF oversight of some travel retailers, essentially Australian bricks and mortar agents, to a self-regulatory system covering all travel sellers and incorporating a voluntary accreditation scheme.

AFTA chief executive Jay Westbury was supremely confident of the outcome on financial returns and audits but insisted to travelBulletin that nothing could be confirmed until the changes were gazetted.

Sources expected this would take place late in the last week of June, probably Thursday, June 28.

Audits are an expensive item for many travel agents, some of whom also have to meet similar requirements imposed by IATA. The lifting of the obligation will be the latest step in the steady progress now being made towards the new regime requiring compliance with Australian Consumer Law.

On the voluntary accreditation front, a series of AFTA sub-committees have now come up with a series of draft criteria for membership of what has been tentatively titled the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS).

These criteria are now open for discussion by agents, with input not limited to AFTA members.

Under the draft proposals, partici-pants will be required to comply with nine levels of criteria which include being a travel intermediary, abiding by a code of conduct, compliance with Australian Consumer Law and verifying consumer engagement.

Participants will also have to prove they are fit and proper entities, have commercial safeguards such as indemnity insurance in place, have a commitment to workforce develop-ment and a mechanism to resolve complaints.

“It is envisaged all existing TCF members will be admitted to the new scheme under a grandfather clause,” Council of Australian Tour Operators general manager Peter Baily told this month’s CATO AGM.

With criteria drafted, AFTA’s general manager accreditation Gary O’Riordan will now proceed with plans for a road show which will give agents around Australia the opportunity to discuss the draft criteria (travelBulletin, May).

Westbury anticipates this process will result in criteria being finalised in time for approval by the scheduled September meeting of the AFTA board.

Once criteria have been finalised, a series of transition workshops are planned from October with imple-mentation set for July 2014.

In the meantime he will continue to pursue Consumer Affairs Ministers for a sizeable allocation of funds to back a major national consumer advertising campaign promoting the use of accredited travel agents.

The possibility of supplier insolvency insurance remains under investigation. Ideally such insurance would cover agents against supplier collapse and credit card charge backs incurred by such collapses.

• See also AFTA View: Draft accreditation up for discussion by all AFTA members.


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