ARTA vs. Seller of Travel Laws

ARTA president talks about state seller of travel laws.

By: John Hawks, ARTA President

In the travel news this week there’s an item about the state of Oregon launching new regulations for sellers of travel. In Oregon, groups of agents can form “self-regulating associations” with a code of ethics and a dispute-resolution process for consumers to promote themselves as consumer-friendly. Other travel associations plan to register for this law and apply for certification. However, ARTA wants no part of it.

Why does ARTA oppose all state seller of travel laws?

First, we believe that travel agents do not pose a threat to consumers. Day in and day out, you book travel for your clients and you close sales for suppliers, but you rarely have control of the clients’ funds. In many cases, you accept credit cards that are given to suppliers for processing, or checks made payable to suppliers. It would be unusual that a travel agent would have a significant amount of cash on hand from consumers to do mischief.

Second, we feel that agents should not be treated differently from other types of retailers. How many states regulate bookstores? Or computer dealers? Or toy stores? Almost none. Therefore, why should you have to bear the costs and hassles of registering with a state?

Third, we’re convinced that the Oregon law in particular has major flaws. Associations registering for certification under this new law can’t really offer consumers any guarantees about participating agencies. How much protection does a code of ethics and a dispute-resolution process offer?

In practical terms, we see problems as well for the associations, which could be named as defendants if consumers sue their agents. That’s why ARTA and OSSN oppose the California Seller of Travel law, as well as new laws like Oregon’s that have come down the pike.