Nevada Gets Alternate Bond Plans

Rival bill would lessen impact of proposed changes in state's seller of travel regulations

By: Kevin Brass

A fight is shaping up in the Nevada legislature over two proposals to amend the regulations governing sellers of travel.

One bill, AB496, follows state Consumer Affairs office guidelines suggesting that each travel agent be required to post a bond of $10,000 to $25,000, depending on business volume. It would eliminate the current exemption for agents who already have posted bonds with the Airlines Reporting Corp. to gain its approval status.

Another bill, AB343, would mandate a $10,000 bond and require that travel sellers have errors-and-omission insurance, but it would maintain the ARC exemption.

Agents not affiliated with ARC, but who have maintained a clean record for at least three years, would also be exempt, as would travel agency employees and contractors.

The proposals by the consumer affairs office “would put a big burden on even the smallest travel agents,” said Bonnie McDaniel of A Quick Trip travel agency in Las Vegas. The second bill was proposed in response to such agent concerns.

Nevada Consumer Affairs commissioner Patricia Jarman-Manning said that the exemptions in state Assemblyman John Carpenter’s bill would “nullify what we’re trying to do.”

Carpenter’s bill would put oversight of travel agencies in the hands of an elected body of 12 agency owners with a current working name of Nevada Association of Independent Travel Agents. A 13th member would be appointed by the state. The bill, still being drafted at press time, would continue the requirement that agencies post a $50,000 bond, considered a problem by most agents, and would also continue the exemption from the bond requirement for established ARC-appointed agencies.

The main goal of the new regulations, Jarman-Manning said, is to protect consumers from travel agencies going out of business in “volatile times.”

“We don’t think all travel agents are unscrupulous,” she said. “However, we’ve found many situations where consumers were flat-out ripped off.”

Jarman-Manning said she plans to contact Carpenter to see if a compromise can be worked out between the two bills.