Consumer Protection

The court enforced administration order granted today against Eclear (UK) was widely expected. However what ultimately has to come out of the undoubted ensuing enquiry is how such an “aggregator” type company could function unregulated in the UK. The other questions that need to be answered is who is the “Acquirer of Record” (Eclear was not a bank and could itself not clear credit cards)?. What role do Visa and Mastercard who formulate the credit card rules have to play in this fiasco? What checks did travel regulators and trade associations do for their licence holders and members in relation to Eclear?

The travel industry could ill afford to be dragged into this controversy which will now only make credit cards harder to obtain and maintain by travel companies. Why do regulators and trade associations still hide behind Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act when it comes to travel consumer protection issues? Surely the travel consumer protection regime should address its role in failures and make its consumer protection structure a “one stop shop” for consumers. Regrettably when a travel company fails it seems that all regulators, bonders, trade associations look to “palm off” responsibility to someone else. Many people ask me what I look for when I book my own holiday arrangements for protection. My reply is always the same – “I don’t look for any ATOL or ABTA logo I just pay with a credit card”.

For many years the one method of consumer protection that has been most maligned has been trust accounts – ABTA do not accept them as an alternative method for consumer protection for non-licensable products. However the Travel Trust Association (“TTA”) has now run their consumer protection structure for many years and the one undeniable fact is that they welcome consumers of failed members with open arms and either fulfil their travel arrangements or reimburse them without the unseemly prevarication of trying to put off the responsibility upon someone else! You will not find one consumer who booked with a TTA member having lost their money! Others please take note!