The West

The fund that protects consumers from financial loss if travel agents go out of business will be abolished on July 1. Picture: Bloomberg

The fund that protects consumers from financial loss if travel agents go out of business will be abolished on July 1, after the State Government introduced legislation to deregulate travel agents in WA.

The Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) will cover eligible claims for bookings made before July 1.

To replace the TCF, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has developed the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS), a voluntary system to set standards of good practice and to handle mistakes.

But while ATAS provides some peace of mind to consumers, it's not compulsory for its members to take out insolvency insurance, so it's important when booking through an agent to ask about their cover in case you don't get what you paid for.

And use your credit card to pay for your holiday, as there may be some chance to recoup money if services are not provided.

To become a member of ATAS, a travel agency must provide its financial records annually and disclose the extent of its insurance cover, meet minimum standards of staff accreditation and training, submit its dispute resolution and complaint-handling policy and agree to a code of conduct.

In return, agents will be promoted nationally to consumers by ATAS, be provided with business training support and given access to optional insurance that protects them and their customers if the if the business experiences financial hardship.

The TCF has been abolished after the other States and the ACT withdrew from the old licensing system and the fund itself, which oversaw the financial affairs of travel agents and compensated customers if, for example, an agent went bust or didn't pay a supplier of services.

But State Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said maintaining the fund would disadvantage the more than 330 licensed travel agents in WA by forcing them to charge more than interstate agents or booking websites.

The West Australian

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