Agents can expect more disgruntled customers to film disputes and threaten to post them online despite the practice being potentially illegal, legal experts have warned.
The issue was highlighted on Saturday when Tui customer Naveed Sadiq videoed agents and security staff escorting him from the branch at Birmingham shopping centre The Fort.
He and his wife were due to fly to Turkey the following day and claimed they had been told they would have access to a segregated pool, but later found only a communal pool would be available.
Sadiq shared the footage with the Birmingham Mail and described the agency’s behaviour as an “extreme reaction”. He has since been offered a full refund.
Matt Gatenby, partner at Travlaw, said the filming raised legal issues in terms of both publication consent and data protection.
He said: “Pictures and videos taken in public are usually considered fair game, but this isn’t a public place, it’s a business workplace with sensitive data. Of course, anyone can walk in, but it’s not Trafalgar Square. There is commercially sensitive data [around identifying staff and customers’ holiday details].
“You quickly get into quite complex law with consent, but you can’t just use footage [taken inside a workplace] and publish it without the business’s permission.”
He added: “I suggest companies prepare for this sort of thing.
“The worst thing that you can do is react inappropriately.”
Tui said it has a general policy to protect staff as well as customers. Managers are trained to protect agents or customers from aggression or harassment in store, and have the discretion to ask customers to leave.
Consumer champion Which? said customers should be “tenacious” when they feel let down but use agencies’ formal complaints procedures.
Abta said it has no specific guidance on filming disputes and offers members support on a case‑by‑case basis.
The industry jumped to the defence of the Tui agents.
Gemma Antrobus, chairman of Aito Specialist Travel Agents, said: “I would take great offence if someone did that in our office.
“I would ask them to leave. If they didn’t, I would have to think very hard about the next play.
“It’s an antagonistic approach. If someone puts a camera in your face, you might get angry or upset and come across the wrong way. People think it will get their complaints dealt with quickly, but it shouldn’t be that way.
“You can’t expect an agent at Tui to have all the answers there and then. There are official channels.”
Agents’ views on being filmed by customers
“It’s a bit extreme, [this customer] feeling the need to film the agents while asking for a refund. I’d have asked him to leave too. And if he refused, I would have politely called for security.”
Debbie Wharton, Hays Travel, Bradford
“The intention of filming is to intimidate. I would not be happy with this. If it’s a complaint, they should follow the correct procedures.”
Marie Orpe, personal travel advisor, Cardinal House
“I think stores will need to have something specific on display forbidding use of phone cameras and recording equipment. At least that would make it public that it’s not considered acceptable.”
Andrew Liddell, cruise consultant, Need a Cruise
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