Canada's Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA Canada) slammed the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) today for failing to be forthcoming and to properly communicate with travel agencies about new regulations seemingly approved for effectiveness on 01 July 2010. With little more than a three sentence posting in the advisory section of its web site, TICO provided links to access a letter from the Minister of Consumer Services and a copy of the amendments captured in Ontario Regulation 161/10.
Unlike past regulatory amendments where TICO provided opportunities to consult with registrants, explanatory papers outlining the key proposals in layman's language, and a period for industry stakeholders to provide public comments, none of these things were done for the new regulations. In fact, TICO didn't have the propriety to even mention these imminent changes at the Town Hall Meetings it conducted last month and in Toronto just ten days ago. Surely TICO has been fully engaged with the Ontario Government for months on this matter.
"This is TICO at its rogue worst. If there were ever a case to be made for getting rid of incumbent appointed industry board members in favour of more elected board members, this is it. Does TICO really believe that travel agencies are going to routinely monitor the TICO web site to find critical information like this? It's absurd to think that TICO cannot muster enough good business sense to engage in proper disclosure of these matters, particularly when they expect us to unfailingly tow the line about consumer disclosures", said ARTA Canada President Bruce Bishins, CTC.
Key among the approved changes, many of which stem from the government's assessment of the Conquest failure, are:
- Editorial removal of CITC as the party providing credentials to travel counsellors and supervisors/managers who have passed the TICO (the administrative authority) examinations;
- An obligation for a registrant to give TICO no less that 10 days advance notice (or as soon as "practicable") if the registrant plans to cease operations;
- An obligation for a registrant which acts as both a retailer and a wholesaler to provide financial statements for the combined total of all sales;
- Amendments to claims and rights of reimbursement for consumers;
- Modifications to insurance disclosures.
The new regulations contain awkward and unclear policies on a number of issues, and TICO should clear up the "legalese" so that registrants have a firm understanding of what will now be required.
Despite the outrage expressed by retailers over TICO's failure to timely disclose that Conquest Vacations was suffering financially, a concern leveled at TICO by angry attendees at the 10 May 2010 Town Hall Meeting in Toronto, TICO has successfully persuaded the government to allow TICO to continue its practice of sheltering financially failing registrants by insulating them from any public disclosure of same by TICO. A new regulation states that:
"The registrar shall not make any information available to the public under this section if it is financial information relating to a person or the business of a person and the person could reasonably expect that the information would be kept confidential."
It is wholly unacceptable for TICO and the government to claim an obligation of consumer protection when they seek to protect financially failing or financially delinquent registrants from public scrutiny.
Lastly, despite TICO's years old commitment to do all possible to seek regulatory change to allow retail travel agents to claim commissions from the Compensation Fund lost from failed wholesalers, once again, TICO has failed to bring about this change.
"What really should be of concern about the approved regulations is that TICO engaged the government on these changes without any consultation with registrants. This is unacceptable, and TICO needs to fully explain these actions which violate TICO's own commitment to registrants for greater transparency", added Bishins.
Click here for a copy of the letter from the Minister of Consumer Services, and also
click here for a copy of the amended regulations.