Commissioner's Blog: Shop smart to avoid holiday blues
Travel is often expensive so it’s well worth taking the time to do a bit of research before you book your trip to make sure all goes to plan and you get what you paid for.
Whether using a travel agent or booking online yourself, it is always a good idea to compare travel packages as well as the cost of individual flights, trips and hotel accommodation before you purchase anything and always read the terms and conditions.
Searching online for reviews and testimonials will also allow you to identify whether consumers have experienced problems with the travel website, agency, airline or service provider that you intend to use.
Travel insurance is vital but make sure you know what is actually covered by the policy and choose the option that best suits your needs. For example, does it cover things like medical costs, cancellations or insolvency of travel operators?
If you pay for travel or accommodation by credit card and the credit card provider includes insurance, read the policy to determine under what circumstances you are entitled to make a claim.
Doing your research before booking anything will allow you to make an informed decision and it is important not to rely solely on comparison websites as a source of information.
Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), you have the right to expect that comparator websites will provide truthful and accurate representations, statements or claims but that is not always the case.
It is important to be aware of how these comparator websites actually work to make sure you get the best deal because the way the information has been selected and displayed on the site may not be immediately transparent.
The website may not compare all the offers or products in the market, so check what’s on offer across a range of comparator sites.
Also check if there’s a commercial relationship. The website operators may have commercial relationships with, or receive financial inducements from, listed businesses that can influence recommendations.
If you are using a travel agent, under the ACL they must provide accurate information and must also guarantee services are provided with due care and skill and are fit for their purpose.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) is a voluntary industry-led accreditation scheme. It consists of a Charter and Code of Conduct and sets standards of good industry practice including complaint handling processes.
We recommend you use an agent who is a member of ATAS. The agent should act according to their code and you have some additional options if things go wrong.
If things don’t go to plan, first try to resolve any issues with your travel provider directly. If you are unsuccessful then contact us for further advice. And remember that paying by credit card may allow you to get a chargeback through your bank if you do not receive what you paid for.
If you book accommodation through an online marketplace or sharing economy platform, it’s important to remember that you are protected by the ACL if things go wrong. Traders have all the same rights and responsibilities as they would in-store, like guaranteeing the services and goods they’re providing to consumers comply with consumer law.
Since 30 June 2018, Consumer Protection has received 175 travel-related complaints, with the majority about flights and accommodation.