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Published on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Travel agents criticised for lack of 'basic facts' on financial protection






 


Travel firms have been accused by consumers' champion Which? of misleading customers regarding their rights under the Package Travel Regulations because they're unsure of the rules themselves.

Its mystery shopper exercise found that many travel agents were giving customers incorrect information about the cover and protection they were entitled to, specifically regarding linked travel arrangements (LTAs), where several elements of the holiday are booked separately.

Worst offenders, according to Which?, were Ryanair and online travel agent eDreams, but it found that agents at six of the seven companies it contacted gave incorrect information regarding LTAs.

Ryanair and eDreams agents got 10 out of 15 questions wrong and, in the the case of Ryanair, staff were stumped enough to pass the investigator's calls between two call centres - Ryanair Rooms and Ryanair.com.

Not only did Ryanair get two-thirds of the questions wrong, one staff member was even unable to explain what a package was - claiming that because the 'hotel was provided by a third party it doesn't count as a package'.

The 'third party' hotel was booked via Ryanair Rooms, and the flight and hotel were part of the same transaction.

Which? also contacted Expedia, British Airways Holidays, Lastminute.com, Trailfinders and TravelRepublic. It said many agents got more than half its questions wrong, although Trailfinders answered all but one question correctly.


 
EDreams said it has since reviewed its information. A spokesperson said: "As soon as we were made aware of this investigation, we immediately launched a thorough review to ensure that we meet our demanding standards to deliver excellence for our customers.

"As the leading online travel company in Europe, our customers are our number one priority and our Customer Services team is continuously trained to provide them with the most up to date information on a range of topics.

"The information our Customer Services team provides on travel protection has now been reviewed to ensure it is communicated in the most clear and comprehensive manner."

Under the recently revised Package Travel Regulations, if a customer books a car rental, hotel or tour within 24 hours of booking a flight with the same company and it isn't a package, it is a Linked Travel Arrangement. This means financial failure protection is in place to refund part of the booking if one of the companies involved becomes insolvent.

However, Which? said many of the agents it spoke to only mentioned ATOL protection, 'as though it were a fix-all substitute for the Package Travel Regulations', it said. Some seems to lack 'basic information' regarding LTAs, almost a year after they were introduced.

Spanish-based online travel agent eDreams incorrectly told Which? that the fictional holiday would be ATOL-protected, but its ATOL licence expired in 2018.

"And while it now offers financial protection from a similar Spanish scheme, this would be much harder to establish for anyone caught out when they are on holiday," added Which?

Which? has shared its findings with the Civil Aviation Authority urging it to take action against those companies that are regularly misleading people about how well their holiday is protected, including those companies that claim to have an ATOL licence but don't.

The evidence has also been presented to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Government body responsible for reviewing the new travel rules.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: "The new rules around travel protection are difficult to understand but that is no excuse for travel agents who are in the business of selling holidays to give travellers the wrong information especially when we have seen so many travel plans ruined by airlines going bust in recent years.

"It is completely unreasonable for the onus to fall onto holidaymakers when legislation clearly states that no matter how you book your trip, the company you are booking with needs to tell you up front if you're buying a package holiday or not - and tell you exactly what this entails."

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  • What a croc

    Agents are being paid for this insurance so it's up to the consumer to find out the facts.

    By Michael Anderson, Wednesday, May 8, 2019

  • What a croc

    Agents aren't being paid for this insurance

    By Michael Anderson, Wednesday, May 8, 2019

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