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IMPORTANT CHANGES TO THE AFTA CHARGEBACK SCHEME (ACS) and INFORMATION ABOUT CARD CHARGEBACKS

[Thursday 23 April 2020:] The significant and unprecedented challenges of the COVID19 pandemic for the travel sector have forced necessary changes to the AFTA Chargeback Scheme (ACS).

As a result of the COVID19 pandemic being declared and the cessation of future bookings for travelling being the reality of the current state of the travel industry, ACS will be suspended for new bookings from 1 May 2020. ACS will be placed into hibernation with a claims process being implemented and introduced over the coming months as necessary.

All ATAS accredited agents who opted in as an ACS participating agency, who have made an eligible transaction via an eligible card until the 30 April 2020, will continue to have protection intact for those transactions. This will include sales on Virgin Australia and should the situation with Virgin progress to insolvency, claims would be eligible consistent with the hibernation plan being put in place.

Due to the pandemic status of the virus and the ongoing lack of forward sales, ACS will not be in a position to renew participation for the foreseeable future and the scheme will be placed into a hibernation state until further notice. No new applications or renewals will be offered for ACS participation.

All ACS participants have been notified of these changes and the necessary by-laws have been passed by the ACS Board to effect these changes.

ACS also acknowledges the service of Katrina Barry and Kevin Forder who have served as directors and have resigned from the Board. The Board of ACS will remain intact during hibernation with Jayson Westbury, Charlie Gow-Gates and Mike Thompson remaining on the Board.

“Covid19 has brought with it some dark times for the travel industry, and all of us involved in the formation of the scheme and the cover that has been in place for the past two years, are disappointed that these decisions and actions that are required at this time. The good thing is that sales until the 30 April will carry protection and I hope that when we all come out of this pandemic, we will be able to bring the scheme out of hibernation to support AFTA members in the future,” said Jayson Westbury AFTA Chief Executive.

AFTA has been in dialog with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in relation to the situation about card chargebacks and we are pleased to provide a short summary of the outcome of those discussions.

The RBA has written to the Card issuing banks, Card Acquiring banks and Card Schemes about reasonable and fair dealings for travel agents at these unprecedented times and the following outlines the detail.

The RBA has requested compliance with the following:

  • That a card holder application for a chargeback against a travel agent should be dealt with reasonably and given time to dispute the chargeback and not debit the travel agents bank account until this process has been followed;
  • That a card holder application for the chargeback for a refund against the travel agent where the card holder has already accepted a travel credit/voucher should not be successful;

  • That a card holder application for a chargeback against the travel agent as a result of an extended time delay, while the agent awaits the refund from the supplier, should not be successful if the agent’s terms and conditions with the customer allow for such a delay;

  • That an acceptance by all parties to the card schemes that more time than usual will be required to settle matters before taking action against the travel agent.

AFTA does note that these arrangements communicated by the RBA does not relate in the circumstances where the supplier has become insolvent and AFTA continues to explore options for how this may be addressed during the pandemic.

“AFTA is very pleased that at a time when it is really needed, the RBA has taken steps to support travel agents so that a reasonable approach can be taken when chargebacks may be raised against travel agents,” said Westbury.

“We are in difficult times and AFTA is well aware of the risks and challenges faced at this time and will continue to work with stakeholders with a view to finding equitable solutions as more serious circumstances present during this pandemic,” added Westbury.

As further details as to the hibernation operations of ACS becomes available this will be communicated. ACS participants and ACS payment partners have been notified directly of these changes.

- ENDS-


MEDIA CONTACT: Jayson Westbury, 0414 906 767, ea@afta.com.au


Notes to Editors:
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) is the peak body in Australia representing the retail travel industry. Founded in 1957, AFTA represents the majority of travel agents in Australia and includes all of the major travel agency groups.

AFTA is supporting the travel agency community, travelling public and travel suppliers to the best of our ability during this COVID19 pandemic.

The ATAS accreditation scheme that is operated by AFTA remains in place and consumers can seek information about their travel plans which have been booked via an ATAS accredited travel agent at www.atas.com.au

We wish all travel industry stakeholders and the travelling public a safe outcome to this dreadful pandemic and look forward to a time in the near future when we can all return to travelling.