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ATAS Complaint Appeal Committee (ACAC)

The ACAC is an independent review body specifically established under ATAS to review and determine customer complaints and allegations of non-compliance with the ATAS Charter and Code. The ACAC reviews complaints elevated to it by the Compliance Manager and can issue binding decisions, including sanctions against a Participant.

In situations where both parties cannot come to an agreement the ACAC plays a vital role in addressing the ATAS participant’s compliance with the ATAS Code of Conduct and ensuring a fair outcome for all parties.

ACAC 2019 Meeting Dates

18 February
20 May
1 August
18 November


Decisions Relating to Consumer Complaints

ACAC meeting decisions in relation to Consumer complaints received.

HEARING DATE
 OUTCOME DETAILS
18 Feb 2019
No breach

Ref# 18-0936
ISSUE: The complainant booked and paid for a holiday online and received confirmation details. The complainant identified 10 days later that the dates booked were incorrect and not the dates they were seeking. The booking was non-refundable due to the short cancellation period and the complainant sought a full refund.


OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed.


14 Dec
2018

No breach

Ref# 18-1035
ISSUE: The complainant contacted the airline to advise he could not return on a date however did not pay the fee. Did not advise the agent also and thus was recorded as a ‘no show’. Was seeking an exemption from payment of ‘no show’ fee.

OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed. Complainant did not follow clearly stated instruction.


12 Nov
2018

No breach

Ref# 18-0919
ISSUE: Complainant had failed to rebook within time however the agent had failed to respond to his last email within time. The agent had refunded and charged a cancellation fee.

OUTCOME: Appeal upheld. Found that the complainant had been placed in a disadvantageous position.

SANCTION: Refund of additional $500 per person.


12 Nov
2018

No breach

Ref#: 18-0609
ISSUE: Complaint was that agent had overcharged for rebooking tickets.

OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed.


20 Aug
2018

No breach

Ref #18-0620
ISSUE: The complainant had requested a particular aircraft type for a flight. The airline within their terms of carriage, later changed the aircraft type on that flight, resulting in the complainant having to pay to amend flight so as to fly on the original aircraft type requested.


OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed.
SANCTION: n/a


20 Aug
2018

Breach of s 3.2(a)(iii)


Ref #18-0634
ISSUE: The complainant claimed was told over the phone that travel was by mini-bus however travel was by public transport.

OUTCOME: The Committee was satisfied that some fault lay with the agent and that the amount offered was not sufficient.

SANCTION: A rectification order to increase the refund to $1150 which was half of the amount being claimed was ordered.


18 Jun
2018

No breach
Ref #17-1153

ISSUE: The complainant sought to have ‘no show’ fees waived as alleged the agent failed to disclose all relevant information in a plain and easy to understand form. The ATAS Compliance Manager found no breach had occurred.


OUTCOME: The ACAC upheld the decision of the ATAS Compliance Manager.


SANCTION: n/a


30 Apr

2018


No breach


Ref #18-0215
ISSUE: Complainant sought to cancel and get a refund following the Mexico earthquake however the Agent did not cancel the trip and proceeded. Complainant alleged that tour was impacted and sought refund for faulty product and for agent to change terms and conditions where a natural disaster occurred. ATAS Compliance Manager found no breach by the Agent.


OUTCOME: ACAC upheld the decision of the ATAS Compliance Manager and found no breach had occurred.


SANCTION: n/a.


26 Feb 2018


Breach of s 3.2(a)


Ref #17-1102
Was an online advertisement with imagery of
orang-utans and reference to being able to visit an orang-utan sanctuary misleading?

OUTCOME: The Committee found that the agent must take responsibility for checking the detail of what is stated in the promotional material as it is this documentation on which the travelling public relies when deciding to purchase a holiday package. The Agent had already removed the images and references.

SANCTION: The Committee overturned the decision of the ATAS Compliance Manager and ordered a refund of the amount paid for the holiday of $1099.


26 Feb 2018


Breach of 3.2(a)


Ref #17-1037
ISSUE: Was the complainant misled during a telephone conversation about being allowed to smoke on a balcony at the resort? The matter was then referred to the ACCMC for determination.

OUTCOME: Whilst the Committee agreed with the ATAS Compliance Managers decision that a breach of the Code had occurred, they also found that the Agent had not confirmed that smoking was not permitted on the patio and smoking was not completely banned on the premises and that a full refund was not warranted.

SANCTION: The Committee ordered half of the accommodation cost to be refunded rounded to $1500.


8 Dec
2017

Breach of s3.2(a)(iii)


Ref #17-0927
ISSUE: Had the Agent breached the Code for failing to disclose ‘all relevant information in a plain and easy-to-understand form’ in relation to advice regarding visas contained in the terms and conditions.


OUTCOME: The Committee found that the Agent had breached the section as they had provided general advice in regard to U.S. visa requirements but no relevant information under the heading ‘Travel to Canada/Mexico’.


SANCTION: Agent to reimburse applicant sum of $2916 for additional costs and for the terms and conditions to be amended and expressed in a plain and easy-to-understand form.


8 Dec 2017

No breach of 3.2


Ref #17-0922
ISSUE: Tour guide had failed to pick up the complainant; the complainant had missed out on time in departure city; and complaint was about Agents response and handling of complaint. Appeal was based on complainant seeking increase of refund that had been offered.


OUTCOME: The appeal was dismissed.


 

25 Aug 2017

 

No breach of s3.2

 

Ref#17-0529 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Was the term “pristine beaches” misleading and thus a breach of the Service Quality Promise?


No breach was found and finding s of the Compliance Manager were upheld.

 

16 June 2017

 

Breach of s3.2(a)

 

Ref#17-0339 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Was the failure to advise that the sale price was limited to a 24-hour window a breach of the Service Quality Promise?
The Committee found that the travel intermediary had breached its obligations relating to the service quality promise, however as no financial loss was suffered no rectification of costs was ordered.


A Rectification order was sanctioned to review internal processes when communicating with clients to ensure that all relevant and important information is provided when a quote is provided. Further to this, operating procedures must also be reviewed to ensure that when staff members are away ill from operation that alternative arrangements are in place to ensure that pending customer enquiries are appropriately dealt with and in a timely manner.

24 Feb 2017

No breach of s3.2


Ref#16-0722 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Had the Agent failed to provide the complainant with the requested service and breached the Service Quality Promise?


No breach found and findings of Compliance Manager were upheld.


24 Feb 2017


Breach of s3.2 found


Ref#16-0856 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Had the Agent failed to disclose relevant information and breached the Service Quality Promise?


ACAC found Agent had failed to disclose all relevant information in a plain and easy to understand form. The Agent failed this obligation as it advised a refund would be “approximately $2500” yet this amount changed to $1803.72. The notification did not contain any advice that the amount of “approximately $2500” was subject to change and the Agent is thus contractually bound to the statement. The Committee determined that the term “approximately” allows only a 10% window either side of the stated figure.


The Committee ordered a Rectification Order of an additional $500 to be refunded to the complainant.


28 Oct 2016


Breach of s3.2(a) found.
No breach of s4.1(b)(iv)


Ref #16-0826 Matter was referred to ACAC by Compliance Manager.


ISSUE: Had the Agent disclosed the terms and conditions to the complainant and had the Agent acted with respect and courtesy?


OUTCOME: Participant was required to write a written apology to the complainant and provide a report to ACAC detailing actions taken as required by the Improvement Notice.


10 Feb 2016


No breach of s3.2 found.


N/A

8 May 2015


Breach of s5.1(c).


Breach of 5.1(c) identified with respect to not meeting the timeline in responding to a complaint. An Improvement Notice in relation to breach was issued to the Participant and the Participant was required to write apology to the complainant


8 May 2015


No breach of s3.2 found.


N/A




ACAC COMMITTEE

Committee Position
 bio
 

ACAC Chair
Graham MacDonald


Graham MacDonald
 

Graham is a lawyer originally from WA where he was involved in the establishment of the Aboriginal Legal Service. After a period of private practice as a barrister and solicitor where he undertook appellate and administrative law cases Graham was appointed a Presidential Member of the Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal.


Among other appointments Graham has served as the inaugural Australian Banking Ombudsman, Chairman of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. as an independent director of auDA ltd (the regulator of Australia’s domain name industry) and as a member of an international expert panel advising the Californian based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on dispute resolution.


Graham and his wife live in Victoria on a farm in the Macedon Ranges.



Consumer Representative

Liza Newby


Liza Newby

Liza Newby is a longstanding consumer consultant and advocate. A former member of the Health Issues Centre (the peak NGO health consumer voice in Victoria) – over the last several years (until March 2018), and also a member of their Board of Directors. Liza also served as a Director on the Board of Australian Consumers Association – now ‘Choice’.

Recently joined ‘Consumers Federation of Australia’ (CFA) and is one of their two nominated representatives to AFTA’s Complaints Appeal Committee. In that capacity she will be reporting back to CFA as to general issues encountered by consumers who are also travellers.

She has broad experience in consumer complaints management and resolution - an interest which stemmed from her past roles as Health Services Complaints Commissioner in Victoria, as well as Director of the legal branch of a State health department, and as an Advisor to the Federal Minister of Health on Women’s Health.

Consumer Representative

Jill Toohey


JT Image

Jill Toohey is a lawyer and mediator with many years experience as a decision-maker and senior manager in Commonwealth and State tribunals. Her decision-making experience covers diverse areas including refugee law, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, discrimination law, workers compensation, guardianship and administration, vocational regulation, social security and gender reassignment. She has worked as a solicitor in community legal centres and has a long-standing interest in consumers rights.


Industry Representative

Marg Mulholland


Marg Mulholland

Marg brings a heavy weight level of experience and industry knowledge to the committee. With a career spanning over 40 years in travel, including a long-standing service with Flight Centre Travel Group across a variety of roles such as GM 3rd Party Contracting, GM Employment Office, President GOGO Vacations and VP Flight Centre Global Product to name a few. Marg is an exceptional leader, negotiator and communicator and is passionate in assisting travel businesses succeed for future growth.


 

Industry Representative
Jayson Westbury
Chief Executive, AFTA


Jayson Westbury
 

Appointed to the role of Chief Executive of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) in 2009, Jayson Westbury lead the travel industry through a national regulatory reform which has resulted in a de-regulated environment underpinned by an Accreditation Scheme owned by AFTA.


With over 25 years of experience in the hotel/tourism/travel/hospitality industry, Jayson has a track record in leading successful organisations. Currently undertaking his MBA and with formal training in the hotel industry his experience has included working for hotel technology companies, hotel labour service provider companies, industry associations, business travel and events management companies.


Jayson currently sits on several global boards and committees which include the Passenger Agency Global Joint Council, Chairman of the World Travel Agents Association Alliance (WTAAA) which represents over 80% of the global air sales travel turnover by distributors and is deeply involved in the dialog with IATA on NDC.

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