Travel Agents

AFTA protects agents from suppliers gone bust

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has launched a fresh new scheme to help travel agents with the risks associated with chargebacks in the event of supplier failure.

The new scheme, known as the AFTA Insolvency Chargeback Scheme (AICS), is the first ever mutual fund solution to address the issues of consumer chargebacks when suppliers fail and the travel agent has passed the customer’s money onto the supplier.

AICS is available to ATAS accredited travel agencies only and provides industry-owned protection.

“Today we start a new journey with the launch of AICS,” AFTA Chief Executive Jayson Westbury said.

“We have finally found an appropriate vehicle to solve the missing link in the travel agency reform agenda, that is to have a cost effective way to protect travel agents against chargebacks when suppliers collapse.”

“Since I came into this job nearly 10 years ago, this issue has frustrated and concerned travel agents and each time a supplier has collapsed the agent has been left holding the debt and the concern of covering the chargeback from the customer,” he added.

“Now AICS resolves this matter once and for all and it will come at next to no cost to the travel agent.

“I am really proud that AFTA has managed to negotiate a reform of the credit card surcharging arrangements that enables travel agents to resolve this long standing problem that dates back to the collapse of Ansett all those years ago.”

AICS is a Mutual Beneficiary Fund owned by ATAS accredited entities and operated like an insurance product but without the profit requirements and insurance policy complexities.

AICS will provide cover from 1 September. In order to be members of the new Scheme and be protected from these chargebacks, travel agents will need to have merchant facilities provided by an approved AICS merchant service provider.

AICS merchant service providers will be contracted to collect the AICS contributions as a part of the surcharge rate that the merchant can pass onto the consumer. This will only be available to those merchant service providers who elect to become approved by AICS.

While travel agents will need to be ATAS accredited in order to be eligible to take part in this Scheme there will be very little other requirements asked of them.

“As new and innovative merchant services become available to agents I am confident that not only will this Scheme answer the questions on credit card chargeback, they will also provide agents with better access to affordable merchant facilities for their businesses,” Westbury added.

“The Scheme will be up and running in time for the 1 September cut over to the new credit card surcharging arrangements and this presents an exciting opportunity for travel agents big and small to get the protection they need from this problem.”

AFTA also announced the first approved merchant service provider for AICS is TravelPay.

TravelPay will provide its established payment solutions to travel agents who wish to benefit from the additional financial protections provided by AICS, with TravelPay bringing extensive experience working with ATAS travel agencies to the table for this scheme.

Andrea Slark, CEO of Zenith Payments (which owns TravelPay), said, “TravelPay is delighted to be partnering with AFTA in this highly positive initiative for the travel agents who are the life blood of the industry.

“We already provide payment solutions to hundreds of travel agents and our team of BDMs has more than 100 years’ industry experience so we know we have the expertise to provide a seamless solution for AICS and the agents.”

AFTA will bring on other merchant service providers over the coming months to give agents a bigger range of suppliers to choose from. AFTA has also ensured essential resources are dedicated to the implementing of the scheme so it has every chance of success.

AICS is a separate entity from AFTA with an independent Board and Chair. The Board will have oversight and prudential responsibilities for AICS.

“Amanda Rixon will be joining AFTA in the new position of Industry Partnership Executive. Amanda joins AFTA after five years of service with CLIA,” Westbury explained.

“Amanda will be the primary contact for members looking to take part in AICS while Dean Long, National Manager Strategy and Policy will hold the key management responsibility within AFTA for the new Scheme.”

AFTA members will be receiving an information pack about the Scheme in the coming month and it is expected that the transition to AICS and the merchant service providers involved will be as simple and seamless as possible.

The AICS Scheme will be operated under contract by Gow-Gates. AICS will be owned by ATAS members.

ATAS accredited travel agencies are invited to register their interest in the Scheme at http://www.afta.com.au/AICS with more details and applications becoming available in the coming month.

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