Industry leaders have to make up their minds on consumer protection and help the government rather than allow a “noisy minority” to jeopardise reform, says the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Fresh from addressing the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Venice, CAA consumer protection group director Richard Jackson told Travel Weekly: “The industry has to decide what it wants to do.
“Getting airlines in [to consumer financial protection] is a prize is well worth having, but the industry won’t get this unless it helps the government. People have to take a long-term view.”
The issue is the subject of Every Seat Safe, a Travel Weekly campaign which calls for all carriers to be brought under Atol.
Jackson called on industry bodies and “the larger than life characters in travel” to “step up to the plate”. He said: “The minute you make a regulation you have people trying to find a way around it. So it is a matter of trade associations like Abta, organisations like Advantage, the industry collectively taking a realistic view or losing the chance to get the airlines in.”
The CAA believes there has been a lot of attention on a “noisy minority”. Jackson said: “It seems the trade has cold feet. But do people think the status quo can continue?”
He said: “The government is prepared to do what the trade has been asking for. Once the government gets the Air Travel Trust fund debt off its books it wants the industry to take responsibility for protection – and that is an opportunity.”
The CAA and Department for Transport will take “a carrot and stick” approach to the flight-plus reform, he said, adding: “We are looking to make it more attractive to be in than out.”
The proposed Atol Certificate, to be introduced alongside the fight-plus Atol, will form an important part of this. “All customers will get a certificate that will say very clearly what is protected,” said Jackson. “The government and trade, Abta and the Consumer Association, will promote it in the media, on websites, on directgov.uk. We hope it will be so distinct that consumers will say, ‘I want one of those’.”
Jackson also believes acting as agent for the consumer will be more complex than some suggest. He said: “Companies would need evidence they were acting as agent of the customer, which would be easy online but not in shops.
“Agent of the consumer is not as simple as using a customer’s credit card. There are areas of risk. Companies would owe customers a duty of care. They would need to follow consumer regulations, which cover the omission of information, and are enforced by the Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards.”
Details of the government’s proposed Atol reform are due to be published in a consultation document within the next week or fortnight.
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