Commissioner's Blog: Hot tips for holiday buyers
With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Perhaps it’s the recent cold weather or maybe use of tax refunds but many Western Australians seem to be booking trips to tropical destinations – Consumer Protection has seen an increase in complaints from holiday-buyers.
One example involves purchases of discount return flights – Perth to Bali for as low as $99 – via a travel agent on Facebook. Despite paying, consumers were not able to get seats on a plane for their desired dates and were asked to cough up more money. We are inviting complaints.
The travel marketplace was deregulated in 2015, so there is no licensing system or compensation scheme but you do have legal protection. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) applies to airline, accommodation or holiday package purchases. Under the ACL travel products or services must be as described or advertised and agents must operate with an acceptable level of skill, otherwise customers can be entitled to a refund, compensation or to have a service provided again.
If you are booking with a travel agent, check they are accredited. A voluntary scheme called ATAS run by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents has an industry Code of Conduct. You can search www.atas.com.au for registered businesses. Other initiatives to maintain professional standards include the Airline Customer Advocate scheme: www.airlinecustomeradvocate.com.au
Using a credit card to pay for travel might attract a small percentage surcharge but could be worth it due to the ‘chargeback’ option if you don’t get what you paid for, or if the business becomes insolvent. Paying with cash or by direct bank transfer usually means you are left out of pocket.
When you buy flights or holidays be sure the read the terms and conditions. Get a copy of the agreement in writing and ask for a receipt. You may wish to check payments have been passed on to third party suppliers. When paying for airfares in full you should be able to confirm with the airline that your tickets are secured. An itinerary printed off by the agent does not secure your travel – insist on formal documentation or electronic confirmation that has come from the supplier(s).
We’ve got more tips, including about insurance, at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/travel
You can contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org