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“Let Agents Be Agents” ABTA Tells EU

“Let Agents Be Agents” ABTA Tells EU

In anticipation of important changes to the Package Travel Directive, to be published in spring 2013, in its latest meetings in Brussels ABTA has been making a strong case for preserving the diversity of business models. This includes ensuring that whatever range of holidays is brought within the scope of a new Directive, members who currently sell these holidays as agents will be able to continue doing so.

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Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, met the EU Commissioner responsible for package travel, Vice-President Viviane Reding, who is responsible for the review of the Package Travel Directive, to stress that the agency model brings additional choice to consumers, and is a critical part of a free competitive market.

He also emphasised to the Commissioner other concerns raised by ABTA members in its consultation on the PTD reforms, such as the infeasibility of cooling off periods for the travel industry and the need to include click-through sales in order to create a level playing field and maximise consumer protection.

“By meeting the Commissioner and her advisors, ABTA is taking our members’ views to the highest levels in Brussels,” he said. “We will continue to press the case for reform while ensuring that the reforms avoid unnecessary red tape and that agents retain the ability to trade as agents. The issue of consumer protection is quite distinct from that of organisers’ business models, and that distinction must not be lost in the Package Travel review. It was a constructive meeting in which we shared our concerns and clearly explained the rationale behind them. We will continue to press our case to MEPs, the Commission and Member States in the coming months.”

ABTA is also in dialogue with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK to argue that any changes to consumer protection, which may be required under any revised Directive, will not be a determining factor in whether agents have additional tax liabilities. This issue is subject to current case law passing through the Court of Appeal, and is being tracked closely by ABTA on behalf of its members.

The details of the proposed revisions to the Package Travel Directive are expected in spring 2013. These will be debated in the European Parliament and the European Council before the new Directive is finalised for probable implementation in 2016.

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, copywriter, editor and proofreader for 52 years, and News & Features Editor for ‘Irish Travel Trade News’ for the past 42 years.

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