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Travel agent licensing

Your questions answered

Licensed travel agent logoAnyone who carries on business as a travel agent is generally required to be licensed. A licensed travel agent will have a green and gold logo displayed at their premises.

These frequently asked questions have been developed to help travel agents understand their rights and responsibilities regarding licensing under the Travel Agents Act 1985 and associated regulations.

I’ve heard that changes are being made to travel agents’ regulation. What are they?

On 7 December 2012, a majority of state and territory Ministers for Consumer Affairs approved a Travel Industry Transition Plan (Transition Plan) which will result in the phased ending of the national cooperative scheme regulating travel agents. This will include the winding up of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF).

The Transition Plan is available for download at consumerlaw.gov.au/travel

These reforms are proposed to take effect over four phases:

Phase 1: From 1 July 2013, travel agents will not be required to lodge Annual Financial Returns to the TCF (not applicable to Northern Territory travel agents as they are not TCF participants)
Phase 2: Amendments to travel agents’ legislation during 2014.
Phase 3: Introduction of a voluntary industry accreditation scheme during 2014
Phase 4: Closure of the TCF by mid to late-2015 and final payments of any consumer claims by 30 June 2015.

What is the situation for WA travel agents?

A decision about the future regulation of WA travel agents is still to be made. The WA Government is committed to consulting with stakeholders via a position paper which is due to be released during the second half of 2013. Stakeholder views in response to the position paper will be taken into account before a final decision is made.

The requirement to be a participant in the TCF will cease once the amendments to WA’s travel agents’ legislation are made. WA travel agents will be advised once a firm date is known.

I’m a travel agent. How do these changes affect me?

From 1 July 2013, travel agents will not be required to lodge Annual Financial Returns to the TCF. This change only relates to the TCF’s auditing requirements and does not affect agents’ financial auditing obligations under any other legislation or industry accreditation, which will continue unchanged.

Further to this, all other licensing, TCF participation and compliance requirements will continue to apply unless you are advised differently.

Are there plans for an industry accreditation scheme?

The Transition Plan recommends that a one-off grant funded out of TCF reserves be made to assist with the development of an industry accreditation scheme. This ensures that a proportion of funds originally received from agents will be channelled back into the industry.

I’m a travel agent. What is expected of me until the changes come into effect?

Essentially, it is business as usual for WA travel agents. Current licensing requirements, TCF membership and compliance requirements remain in place until a final decision about the regulation of travel agents in WA is made and the law is changed.

At all times, when supplying travel or travel-related services to consumers, agents are reminded that they must comply with their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Agents are strongly encouraged to seek independent legal advice about their obligations under the ACL and other laws of general application, which will apply regardless of the changes to the TCF.

Consumer protection regulators have also prepared a series of guides on the various rights and remedies in the ACL, which agents may find useful. These are available on our website.

I’m thinking of becoming a travel agent. When is a good time to start?

If you are considering trading as a travel agent before the reforms have been fully implemented, please seek independent legal and commercial advice about the best time to enter the industry, in light of your own unique circumstances.

Unless and until you are advised otherwise, do not assume that you will receive a refund of any fees that you may have to pay before existing regulation is phased out.

If you have any queries about your licensing obligations, please contact us on the Licensing Advice Line 1300 30 40 64

If you have any queries about your TCF obligations, please contact the TCF on 8227 3500 or by email at mail@tcf.org.au.

How does this change affect consumers?

Consumers will not see an immediate impact of the changes under Phases 1 and 3 of these reforms. Phase 4 will see final payments made to any eligible consumers who have or will (between now and mid 2015) make a claim to the TCF.

After that time, consumers will no longer be able to seek compensation if they suffer loss as a result of the financial collapse of a participating travel agency business.

phone icon Licensing Advice Line 1300 30 40 64