20 August 2014
CHOICE has begun work on a new project that will provide a mix of research, tailored information, education campaigns and advocacy to improve the experience of Australian consumers in the travel market.
CHOICE was one of several groups invited by the nation’s consumer affairs ministers to apply to establish a consumer voice in the travel industry.
Following an agreement with state and territory governments, CHOICE will receive $2.8 million, to be spent over the next 4 ½ years. This follows a similar grant to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents to set up a voluntary self-accreditation scheme from 1 July 2014. Funding has also been provided to state and territory governments to raise awareness about the changes to the travel industry.
Key features of the CHOICE project are:
- Ensuring there is a strong consumer voice in the Australian travel market, identifying emerging consumer issues and advocating for solutions.
- Publishing and promoting independent advice for Australian travellers on their consumer rights and protections.
- Providing unbiased reviews and how-to guides for navigating travel products and services, including travel insurance.
“We are pleased to be able to establish a strong consumer voice in the travel industry, a sector that is rapidly changing and presenting new challenges for Australians to navigate,” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.
“CHOICE argued against some of the changes in the travel industry, such as the abolition of the Travel Compensation Fund. When ministers decided to proceed with the changes, we argued that there should be a strong consumer voice, to help consumers to understand their rights and monitor how well the new arrangements are working. This funding will allow CHOICE to play that role.”
Some of the issues CHOICE expects to address through the project include:
- How to decide whether travel insurance is necessary and how to choose the best policy.
- Travellers’ rights when flights are cancelled or rescheduled.
- Rights to refunds through credit card ‘chargeback’ arrangements where a service is not provided.
Why is CHOICE undertaking this project?
Major changes to the travel industry mean that state-based licensing of travel agents will be replaced by a new voluntary accreditation scheme, and that the Travel Compensation Fund, which has provided compensation for consumers when travel agents have collapsed, is being wound down.
When ministers endorsed these changes and agreed to provide funding to the travel industry to establish the accreditation scheme, CHOICE argued that a comparable amount should be provided to help consumers. A range of organisations were invited to submit tenders for the funding and CHOICE was the successful tenderer.