AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Consumer bodies

Contents

Problems with your holiday

It is extremely aggravating when holidays do not go according to plan. Often, this is the fault of a travel company. In circumstances where a holiday has not lived up to the standards advertised, it may be possible to be reimbursed not only for the cost of the holiday, but to be compensated an additional amount for the loss of enjoyment.

A number of bodies exist to promote the consumer's interest. These bodies are either trade associations or government organisations which have a duty to the travelling public. If things go wrong on holiday and the consumer has not been able to resolve the matter with the individual holiday company, these consumer bodies can be approached to try and resolve the matter. The very fact that a holiday company is a member of a particular organisation does mean that the company has met some standard of service which the consumer can rely upon.

Consumer bodies

Since holidaymakers invariably have to rely on the representations of the tour operators and carriers, and have to pay for the full cost of the service some time before it is delivered, it is not surprising that a number of organisations exist to protect their interests.

ATOL (Air Traffic Organisers' Licensing)

Companies selling air travel in the UK must hold Air Traffic Organisers' Licence. By law all air travel firms must either give the consumer a valid airline ticket as soon as you pay or protect your booking by ATOL. ATOL is the only UK scheme that protects the vast majority of flights and air holidays. If a holiday is booked through an ATOL holder, you are protected from losing your money or from being left stranded abroad if a travel firm goes out of business either before you travel or while you are on holiday.

ATOL will not protect a consumer who books directly with an airline nor will it do so if the ticket is booked abroad. ATOL cannot intervene in issues about the quality of holidays or flights. You should always check the ATOL number of the tour operator you are booking with. They can be contacted at:

ATOL

CAA House,

45-59 Kingsway,

London, WC2B 6TE.

ABTA

The Association of British Travel Agents, is a trade body which aims to ensure that its member tour operators and/or travel agents are financially sound, that the descriptions in their brochures are accurate, that they have a high quality of service to consumers, that the money paid is safe, and that the consumer will not be left stranded abroad. They can be contacted at:

ABTA

68 - 71 Newman Street,

London, W1T 3AH.

If you buy a flight-based package or discounted seat through an ABTA tour operator, the financial protection will normally be provided by ATOL, which itself is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority. ABTA has its own discretionary financial protection scheme for non-air holidays such as ferry and coach travel. In order to benefit from the protection of ABTA, the consumer should ensure that the tour operator is a member of ABTA, not just the travel agent.

In addition to the financial protection described above, ABTA provides a low cost independent arbitration service to resolve disputes about the quality of a holiday provided by one of its members. This service is administered by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. It does not involve a personal appearance since all is done on paper. The decision of the arbitrator is final and legally binding. However, consumers should note that if this service is used and they are not satisfied with the result, it is not possible to take legal action afterwards.

AUC

The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) describes itself as the consumer watchdogs for the airline industry. They aim to advise air travellers on their rights in response to individual enquiries. They also take up individual cases and help passengers who have been badly treated by an airline. They can be contacted at:

AUC

CAA House,

45-59 Kingsway,

London, WC2B 6TE.

If your holiday costs more than £100 and you pay for it by credit card, the credit card company is 'equally liable' for the breaches of contract committed by the holiday company. In order to qualify, it is important that the payment transaction is with the tour operator and not just the travel agent. However, some credit card companies such as Barclaycard and Abbey National Visa may pay out even if the payment is made out to the travel agent.