Agents ‘vulnerable’ over terms of new agreements, warn lawyers

Agents ‘vulnerable’ over terms of new agreements, warn lawyers

Leading industry lawyers have warned agents are in “a vulnerable position” ahead of the June 1 cut-off date for compliance with new Atol regulations.

Travel law specialist Laura Harcombe, a partner at law firm Hamlins, said the requirement for agents to have agency agreements in place with suppliers was causing particular problems.

Harcombe told an Abta travel law seminar in London: “It is incumbent on an agent to demonstrate they have an agreement [in place with a supplier] and are following it.

“Most businesses have a variety of arrangements. Perhaps companies have a relationship but there is no agreement in place, or there is an agreement but it bears no relation to the actual relationship.” She added: “Agreements have often been deliberately opaque.”

Agents can formalise agreements with suppliers online. However, Harcombe said: “As an agent you are in quite a vulnerable position. Agents want to be damn sure they have seen the terms [of an agreement] and make sure nothing else has slipped into an agreement.”

She advised business to use and adapt the Abta model for agency agreements and check Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidance

But Harcombe said: “The fact that there is a discussion [about this] at this stage is evidence that there is uncertainty. We really are some way off having clarity.”

She added: “A lot could have been reformed if we had longer.”

Abta senior solicitor Paula Macfarlane expressed concern about the Atol information currently being issued to customers ahead of the introduction of Atol Certificates from October.

She said: “I’m concerned people are just using the existing paperwork.”


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