Travel Agents

Helloworld agent wins appeal over COVID-19 refund worth over $9,000

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

In an important win for the travel trade, a tribunal panel has ruled that a travel agent was not responsible for refunding clients for a trip that was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal Appeals Panel has set aside orders that Wendy Kiss of Helloworld Gosford refund a consumer in full for bookings even though the suppliers involved only offered credits and a partial refund.

The refund in question was for a trip to Canada and Alaska that was booked in July 2019 including accommodation, international airfares through Air Canada, services from Momento Travel and a railway tour with Rocky Mountaineer.

The booking, which was made for mother and daughter Carolyn Parsons and Constance Dobb, came to $9,092 in total. However, the trip was cancelled due to travel restrictions resulting from the global pandemic.

Parsons and Dobb instituted proceedings in the tribunal, which ruled Kiss was to pay her clients a full refund in November last year.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) provided Kiss with funding for an initial appeal and the support of consumer law expert and former Australian Competition & Consumer Commission CEO Hank Spiers to assist with the written submissions for the second appeal.

Citing another similar recent appeal panel decision, the panel highlighted that because the booking terms and conditions made it clear that Kiss was acting as an agent only, her clients could not claim the refund from her.

The appeals panel that the money Parsons and Dobb paid for their booking was received by Kiss only as an agent for the travel providers and that Kiss had only acted to facilitate the reservations.

On this basis, the panel found that Kiss was not liable to meet any loss her clients faced.

“Without AFTA’s support and Hank’s considerable assistance and expertise, I wouldn’t have been able to get through this,” Kiss said.

“I understand that consumers get frustrated and want their money back but it’s not the travel agent sitting on the money that is the problem.

“I felt I had to keep appealing given the principle of the matter and the flow-on ramifications for my agency and every other agency if we didn’t get a fair and reasonable outcome.”

According to AFTA chair Tom Manwaring, the appeal highlighted several key recommendations for members.

“Make sure you get and keep a record of acceptance of your terms and conditions before payments are received,” he said.

“Make sure that your T&Cs include 1) that rules and restrictions apply; 2) that you as an agent are not liable for any loss or damage suffered in connection with the non-delivery of a travel product; or 3) that you are not liable for any breach of obligations by any third party travel provider.”

Manwaring said that if an agent finds themselves in the unfortunate position of facing a tribunal hearing, they could now cite Kiss v Parsons if appropriate.

“While tribunal decisions aren’t binding on the courts, this is an important outcome and we are very grateful to Wendy for her resilience, persistence and tenacity,” he said.


Featured image source: iStock/101cats


SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Destinations

Spanish politician suggests using catastrophic volcanic eruption to attract tourists

Spain’s tourism minister is in hot water after she proposed using a volcanic eruption that destroyed hundreds of homes to lure tourists to the Canary Islands.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

WATCH: Flight attendant promises to annoy passengers who don’t wear a mask

As you can imagine, the comment section on this TikTok user’s video was… divided, to say the least.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Tourism Minister says international borders will reopen by Christmas “at the latest”

by Ali Coulton

Dan Tehan has urged states to stick to the national plan and encouraged Aussies to “roll up their sleeves”.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

IHG’s Leanne Harwood elected first-ever female president of the Accommodation Association

Hospo industry veteran Leanne Harwood is back in the headlines, and this time it’s about her very deserving new role.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Passenger claims flight attendant told her to glue a mask to her distressed toddler’s face

A mother has taken to social media to call out a flight attendant who she claims gave her a rather distressing ultimatum.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Strong take-up of AFTA membership continues

If the current demand for AFTA membership is anything to go by, there’s a lot of confidence that agents can clear the remaining pandemic hurdles.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

“This is a moment of real celebration”: Celebrity Edge is finally heading Down Under

The champagne corks are popping and the party pies are in the oven at Celebrity Cruises HQ following this big bit of news.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

New research ranks Sydney and Melbourne among the world’s 10 safest cities

With safety weighing heavily on the minds of many travellers during this time, it seems that Aussies jaunting domestically have lucked out.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Former Bench Africa GMs reunite to launch new travel company

After a very dark 18 months for the travel industry, it’s a welcome change seeing positive stories like this one.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Travel agent scams more than $460K out of Cristiano Ronaldo to fuel spending disorder

This crafty agent just dodged four years in jail after reportedly defrauding Ronaldo to the tune of a few hundred thousand, which is really just spare change to the football megastar.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

IHG introduces flexible work program to plug hospitality staffing hole

COVID-19 has prompted the hospitality group to look at different ways of working in order to attract new talent and hold on to its current crop.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Tourism Solomons mourns death of CEO Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto

The close-knit Solomon Islands tourism industry is in mourning following the death of their beloved ‘Boso’.

Share

CommentComments