Published on Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Around 100 companies have been investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority which is concerned many travel businesses may still be flouting the law by trading without an ATOL.
It told TravelMole today that a third of the investigations are still ongoing. Only two - Diving World and Russian Gateway UK Ltd - have resulted in CAA prosecutions. Three resulted in successful prosecutions by trading standards.
The CAA said many of its investigations were based on information provided by consumers or those within the industry. Last year it introduced a hotline for whistleblowers who believe their own bosses may be trading illegally.
"More people do seem to be approaching us with information or requests for us to take action, which we put down to consumers, industry and our partners being engaged with ATOL and more aware of the scheme, and thus coming to us more," said a spokesman.
The CAA launched a public-awareness campaign last December, backed by a dedicated website packpeaceofmind.co.uk to make customers more aware of the protection offered by ATOL.
However, companies that are trading within the law expressed frustration that so far there have been few prosecutions against businesses trading without an ATOL since the CAA introduced new Flight Plus legislation last year.
General manager of Travelsoon.com Jason Patterson said he was frustrated that one of his rivals - Your Vegas Wedding (also trading as Jimmy Vegas) - was being allowed to trade without an ATOL, despite the CAA being made aware of the fact.
Your Vegas Wedding* advertises flight-inclusive wedding packages to Las Vegas on its website but makes no mention of any financial protection and it does not appear to have an ATOL number.
The CAA spokesman said: "We are aware of (Your Vegas Wedding) and have been in touch with someone who has raised concerns with us about the way they are doing business.
"We are currently considering the situation and how they operate before deciding what action (if any) is appropriate to take."
TravelMole tried to contact the company for an explanation but the telephone number on its website is not registered and it has not responded to electronic communication.
Patterson said: ""The self-policing that the CAA is encouraging via its "report a suspect telephone lines" is all well and good, but what of the agencies that flout the law and the governing bodies by simply trading without protection and also the impact (this has) on a reputable business?"
Last November, London-based Diving World became the first business to be fined for breaching ATOL regulations following the introduction of Flight Plus. At the time, the CAA said it was looking into about 20 other companies.
A CAA spokesman said it would consider prosecution when a company failed to co-operate, however in by far the majority of cases the company does co-operate and satisfies the CAA that it is compliant with ATOL regulations.
* Since this story was published, yourvegaswedding has joined Midcounties Co-operative Travel and will trade under its ATOL, see story
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The recent insolvency of Low Cost Travel Group, one of the large players in the travel industry had a big impact on the travelers, hotels and all related players from both wholesale & retail arms. There were about 27,000 people on a holiday who had booked through the company comprised of a €200 million wholesale arm and €500 million OTA / retail arm.