Abta has dismissed claims that failed member Travel Experts misled customers by suggesting they were “fully covered” through its membership of the association.
The Isle of Man firm, which traded as Express Bookers, failed last week.
The Civil Aviation Authority had already begun an investigation into why Express Bookers had an Atol logo on its site and yet its licence, which it had had for just six months, expired in March.
Abta is also conducting a probe under its code of conduct rules but insisted the firm was correct in stating in its terms and conditions that hotel and transfer payments were “fully protected”.
This detail was buried deep in the small print on the site but its ‘about us’ page included a section headed: “Your [sic] fully covered with Express Bookers”.
The section also stated: “Expressbookers.co.uk are Abta bonded for your financial protection.”
A spokesman for Abta dismissed claims this was inaccurate, saying terms and conditions were clear. “Express Bookers was fully bonded with Abta to sell accommodation only and its website indicated that this was precisely what it was selling,” he said.
Alan Bowen, adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “Customers were not fully covered. If they were they would either get the holiday they booked or their money back.
“If as a customer you see ‘fully bonded’, it surely means your money is protected.
“However, customers will lose the cost of their flights unless they can book new accommodation to link with those flights.”
Travel Counsellors chairman David Speakman claimed the “misleading” wording on Express Bookers’ site was indicative of more widespread abuses by Abta members.
Speakman said: “This is about what the customer perceives, not the technical nuances of financial protection. The travelling public continue to be misled by some Abta members that claim to offer financial protection.”
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