THE Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), a non-profit association of lawyers, academics and other professionals dedicated to “protecting and promoting justice, freedom and the rights of the individual”, has made a formal submission to AFTA’s current review of the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS).
The organisation is urging stronger regulation of the travel distribution sector via ATAS, to help address perceived consumer issues which came to the fore when the Government closed Australia’s international borders in Mar 2020.
“The pandemic travel restrictions made it very clear that Australian Consumer Law does not properly protect consumers,” claimed ALA spokesperson Victoria Roy.
“We see too many disappointed people who seek legal advice in an attempt to recover funds or receive remedies when things go wrong, only to find that the law does not fully protect them.”
The ALA submission urges a range of measures including the universal adoption of travel agent trust accounts, and the provision of terms and conditions to customers at the time of booking – including providing the full T&Cs of relevant suppliers, which in some bookings could comprise hundreds of pages of fine print.
However the ALA submission does not address situations where consumer funds have been passed to overseas suppliers not covered by Australian law, which comprised the majority of issues with refunds during COVID-19.
Similar claims about the inadequacy of industry regulation have been made by consumer activist Adam Glezer, whose Consumer Champion business negotiates refunds in return for a percentage of recovered cash.
An AFTA spokesperson confirmed an independent review of all submissions to the ATAS review is underway “to make sure the outcome continues to maintain consumer and industry confidence”.