By Simon Bunce, Abta head of legal and member services
Over the last few weeks Abta teams together with the CAA have been travelling around the country meeting with Members to field queries and give advice on the impact of the new Atol guidelines.
In particular they have been focusing on the imminent introduction of Atol certificates on October 1.
On that day it will be illegal for any company selling an Atol-protected product to take payment from the customer without issuing an Atol Certificate.
This is a fundamental change to the way that travel companies do business.
At the regional meetings it has become clear that Abta members have some very real concerns and worries about the introduction of Atol Certificates.
Many retailers in particular have told us that, while they are fully aware of the requirements and their legal obligations, they are having difficulty getting clarification from Atol holders as to what the process will be for issuing the certificate.
This is part of the reason why we have written to Abta members who are Atol holders urging them to contact their agents.
Many retailers are also concerned about the fact that they still do not have written agency agreements in place with their Atol holder partners. Without these agents cannot sell tour operators’ holidays.
Although we fully appreciate that this particular requirement is causing a lot of extra work for everyone, it must be done for you to legally continue selling that product and it is also essential if agents are to be able to claim from the CAA if Atol holders cease trading.
To simplify the process, we have produced a correctly worded model agency agreement for all Abta members that can be found in our website Member area.
If you are not yet prepared for October 1, there is still time to get ready in the next two weeks and we have a lot of information and resources, including FAQs and video tutorials, on Abta.com to help.
The key questions you need to ask yourselves are:
Do I have correctly worded agency agreements in place with all of my agents?
Are all my booking systems up to date so that Atol certificates can be issued at the time of booking?
Have you let your agents know whether you will be issuing the Atol Certificates or whether they are to issue them on your behalf?
Do I have correctly worded agency agreements in place with all the Atol holders I trade with?
Do I know who will be responsible for issuing the Atol Certificate for all of the Atol holders that I trade with?
If I am responsible for issuing Atol Certificates, do I have systems in place to ensure this happens as soon as I have taken payment from the customer?
There is no doubt that preparing for October 1 will require a lot of energy and focus from the industry.
It is also crucial that we don’t lose sight of the very important goal of bringing holidays sold by airlines into the Atol scheme to ensure the system is as fair and transparent as possible, something we must continue to put pressure on the government to do in the coming year.
The Travel Convention in Turkey next month presents a timely opportunity for us to assess where we are now and what the industry needs to do over the next 12 months, especially in light of the Cabinet reshuffle, to ensure this happens.
I look forward to seeing you there and discussing these issues with you.
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