Legislation needed to protect travellers

Legislation needed to protect travellers

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 13, 2020

(Image from INL File)

Hundreds of travellers, mostly to India, are believed to have been affected as Guru Travel Limited went into liquidation on November 21, 2019. All of them have lost the money that they paid to the travel agency for their airline tickets. They have been left in the lurch.

The suffering public

Unlike business travellers who almost always travel on company account, those who had booked their tickets with Guru Travel, had saved money over a length of time and paid in advance.

They are not only out of pocket but perhaps have also lost the opportunity to undertake the journey, either because they cannot afford to buy another set of tickets or because there are no seats on flights during the busy season.

Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) says that it will come to the rescue of travellers victimised by rogue agents provided they are bonded members of the Association.

“With an unbonded agent, you will have to stand in line as an unsecured creditor, and you will be lucky to see any of your money at all. TAANZ will pay up to $250,000 for un-ticketed bookings if a member agency goes bust,” the Association website says.

Strengthening Consumer Guarantee

How many ordinary New Zealanders are aware of such a requirement? How many of us know if the travel agent that we use is a bonded member of TAANZ or not? Why is it that airline carriers do not come to the rescue of travellers victimised by travel agents?

The Consumer Guarantees Act which says that travel agents and airlines must comply with the service guarantees in the Statue, does not define the responsibility of a travel agent, who is the first point of contact for most travellers.

There is an urgent need for the government to step in and regulate the travel agency market.

The Coalition government has done well in introducing a series of legislative measures to guarantee the New Zealand public under the Consumer Affairs but there is nothing in the law to bring defaulting travel agents to justice.

We hope to see government action at the earliest.

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