The Civil Aviation Authority has offered agents a deal to encourage them to comply with the new Flight-Plus regulations - and to avoid potential legal wrangles in the courts.
The CAA hopes the deal, which involves a substantial financial incentive, will persuade agents not to go down the 'agent for the consumer' route when selling seats on scheduled airlines.
The watchdog is offering agents a 50% credit on all the £2.50 Atol Protection Contributions (APC) paid when booking scheduled airlines. The deal applies to bookings made until further regulations come into force or before September 2013, whichever comes first.
A CAA spokesperson said: "The legislation that's going through will eventually bring 'agent for the consumer' sales into the Atol scheme. But in the short-term, before it does, this gives agents during that period, clarity on what will and will not be protected."
He said the CAA would rather bring more people into the scheme now than end up taking those it believes are breaching the regulations, to court.
"We don't want to go through legal action if for example an agent thought they were selling as the agent for the consumer, but we thought they weren't."
As part of the arrangement, the CAA insists agents must include all seat sales on scheduled airlines in their Atol authorisation limit and declared on their Atol returns.
Andy Cohen, head of Atol, said: “The CAA has decided to propose these arrangements because it believes that it is an appropriate pro-consumer stance which will increase clarity and also bring Atol financial protection immediately to a larger number of holidaymakers.
"No arrangements have currently been finalised, and we won’t comment any further at this stage.”
But the spokesman suggested that initial responses to the proposed deal had been positive: "We have had initial conversations with a number of larger agents and nobody has turned around and thrown it back in our face."
One agent that Travel Weekly spoke to, who asked not to be named until he had run the proposal through his legal departments and decided whether or not to accept the CAA's deal, said it looked "very attractive in principle".
The Department for Transport has indicated it intends to bring 'agent for theconsumer 'sales into the Atol scheme. The Civil Aviation Bill currently going through Parliament would give ministers the means to do this.
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