WA travellers urged to pack some peace of mind

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Western Australians are being encouraged to ‘pack some peace of mind’ when booking their next holiday.

The campaign – an initiative of all Australian consumer protection agencies – has been timed to coincide with the ending of the licensing system for travel agents and the winding down of the associated consumer compensation scheme (Travel Compensation Fund).

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll says that holidays are a significant proportion of the household budget and that the money should be spent with care.

“We know that Australians love travelling, both in our country and outside of it. The average household puts $52 a week towards travel and holidays*, making it one of the largest purchases of the year for most people.

“In the last financial year, Consumer Protection received more than 1,100 travel related enquiries and 260 formal complaints. Many consumers were seeking money back. Whether the service was supplied with due care and skill and claims of misleading advertising/information were the most prominent issues reported by complainants.”

Ms Driscoll says that the Australian Consumer Law applies to travel transactions but advises there are some basic steps consumers can take to protect their purchases.

“Researching reputation and customer service track record is a place to start. Look at reviews, get onto social media and ask friends for their recommendations. If you are booking with a travel agent, check that they are accredited. Any business you book with, in person or online, should have clearly stated refund and complaint policies.”

She says consumers can also protect themselves by choosing how they pay for travel.

“Recently we have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars in consumer detriment when two separate Bali wedding planning businesses took very big cash deposits and failed to deliver what was promised, including flights and accommodation. While credit card can be a more expensive way to pay, consumers may be able to seek a chargeback from their bank if they don’t get what they paid for, for reasons including insolvency of the travel provider.

“Chargebacks are only available on credit cards and when selecting ‘credit’ on a debit card but not when you pay with cash, eftpos, BPAY, bank transfer or cheque.”

The Commissioner said holidaymakers need to think a bit differently about insurance after the travel industry was deregulated.  

“If you use a travel agent, check whether they have insolvency insurance to cover their place of business (not for purchase by consumers) and whether the insurance extends to intermediaries such as tour operators. Previously the Travel Compensation Fund  (TCF) helped consumers financially if travel agents or associated tour operators went bust but this assistance is not available for travel purchased after 1 July 2014.”

She added that holidaymakers should take out their own comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered.

“Travel insurance purchased by consumers usually covers things such as cancellation of holidays, medical expenses and lost luggage. However when it comes to the collapse of suppliers such as airlines, hotels and cruise or tour operators, there are often pre-set limits for claims and exclusions that apply. At the moment it is unlikely that a consumer’s own travel insurance policy would offer cover for a travel agent going under, although the insurance marketplace is adjusting in light of the TCF winding down. Paying by credit card may offer protection against insolvency but you would need to check the financial institution’s chargeback policy to be sure of this.”

For more on how to ‘pack some peace of mind’ for your next holiday, visit www.packsomepeaceofmind.gov.au  (campaign site closed February 2015). For travel insurance tips see www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/insurance/travel-insurance or the CHOICE website www.choice.com.au.

You can find further information at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/travel and one Western Australian will win a $500 travel voucher of their choice by playing the travel game (competition closed 12 December 2014). Western Australians who want advice or have complaints about travel services can contact the Consumer Protection advice line on 1300 30 40 54 or email consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au.

END OF RELEASE

Media Contact (Consumer Protection)  

*Figures quoted are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Expenditure Survey, Australia, 2011.
Consumer Protection
Media release
25 Nov 2014

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