Travlaw claims Qwerty case opens new battleground

Travlaw claims Qwerty case opens new battleground

Travel agents are likely to face increased claims from customers for personal injury when the new Atol flight-plus comes in following a court ruling over a case involving Qwerty Travel.

The claim was made last night be Steven Mason, senior partner at travel law specialist Travlaw, at its regular Big Tent Event in London.

He said: “I think this is going to be the battleground. People say it’s going to be between Flight-Plus and unprotected holidays, but I think it’s going to be quite a battleground between Flight-Plus and package.

“Agents are going to say it’s a Flight-Plus and the injured consumers are going to say it’s a package and that they have the right to claim compensation, which they would not if it was Flight-Plus.”

The Qwerty Travel case involved a customer, Sean Titshall, who had booked a late deal having seen it on Teletext Holidays.

During the holiday he was injured when a patio door in his room smashed and he claimed for compensation.

This was contested by the product liability insurers used by Qwerty Travel as part of its membership of the Travel Trust Association which believed the agent had sold component parts and not a package.

Mason said he believed the court of appeal ruling last December which overturned a previous ruling from a more junior court was significant for consumers.

“This has made is easier for consumers. The court decided because it was all last minute and there was no proper discussion [between Qwerty and Titshall] about the breakdown of the pricing it was a package under the 1992 regulations.

“If that was all the court decided then this case would be pretty uncontroversial  but the court went on to make a deal of the fact that there was a service charge applied by the agent.

“But what’s not clear to me is: let’s say that the price had been broken down clearly and the consumer had been given options as to whether he took the flight or accommodation, and all that had been done correctly in the ‘Travel Republic way’, but there was still a service charge applied - would the court still have decided it was a package?”

Andy Cohen, the CAA’s head of Atol, said the Qwerty case illustrated the problem that the authority has had in properly defining a package, an issue it fought Abta over in the court and lost.

“This is a difficult situation. You do not get the same protection [as a consumer with Flight-Plus] but you do get financial protection. We will be stressing that Flight-Plus is about financial protection and nothing else and we will be lobbying hard in the EU around the review of the Package Travel Regulations.”

Group managing director of the Travel Network Group, parent to the TTA, however, dismissed the Qwerty Case as a “red herring”.

He said the reason that Qwerty joined the TTA was so it could offer its customers 100% consumer protection when dynamically packaging and that the case hinged on a paperwork issue dating back five years.

“Dynamically packaging did not make them [Qwerty] the principal,” he said. “The point is Qwerty complied with the Atol regulations and gave the consumer 100% protection and had public liability insurance in place.”

The Travlaw Big Tent event was attended by around 100 delegates and sponsored by Whitehart Associates, C&M Recruitment and Zolv.

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