Travel retailers risk falling foul of consumer protection rules following changes to the Atol regulations, says a leading lawyer.
And agents face scrutiny of how they display the Atol logo and how they identify protected holidays to consumers from bodies other than the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Lawyer Ian Down, a partner at law firm Hamlins, warns in today's Travel Weekly Business:am: "Agents marketing a mixture of protected and unprotected products will need to take great care."
Down says: "Uncertainty over the need for agents' accreditaton will increase the chances of falling foul of other Atol regulations, particularly the requirements covering reproduction of the [Atol] logo."
New Flight-Plus Atol regulations introduced at the end of April mean many agencies require Atol licences for the first time.
Down says agents should not "falsely imply Atol protection for unprotected products or give consumers the impression of being an accredited agent or member of a trade association if not one".
"The risk of censure is not solely from the CAA," he says, pointing out the Advertising Standards Authority recently upheld a complaint against London-based Emaan Travel for incorrectly implying it had IATA accreditation and an Atol licence by displaying the respective logos.
Down points out: "It would have been worse had the Office of Fair Trading or Trading Standards had not declared their policy was to hold back from criminal proceedings in these situations.
"Agents may want to ask themselves whether the CAA feels the same way."
He warns: "Claiming to be an accredited agent when not or claiming a product is covered by an Atol [when not] are unfair commercial practices under the Consumer Protection for Unfair Trading Regulations."
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