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Welcome to the new world of client agreements. I know that no one enjoys reading the “fine print” — not even lawyers — but it may be your business’ terms and conditions (TCs) standing between you and a potential lawsuit. In the current age of uncertainty, I recommend that all travel advisors dust off their old agreement and decide if changes are needed.
Obviously, you should consult with a lawyer just to make sure that you’re on the correct path. But it also helps to know that there are four key areas that you should address: clients’ consent to be bound by TCs; payment terms; credit card chargebacks; and “force majeure” (our new favorite French phrase).
Let’s break it down.
Securing a Client’s Consent to TCsIt is very important to start off with language that binds the customer to abide by your TCs. Remember, you can certainly use words of your own choosing — as long as the context remains the same.
I would suggest the following: “By booking your arrangement with us, you are agreeing to be bound by the terms of this agreement and any additional terms and conditions of any supplier that are applicable to your booking arrangements. The lead passenger assumes the responsibility of sharing these terms and conditions with each passenger in their group, including payment of all amounts when due. It is the responsibility of each passenger to read our terms and conditions in its entirety. In addition, we reserve the right to modify these Terms and Conditions.”
Also, be sure to include the most important phrase: “If there is any part of these terms and conditions that you do not agree with, please do not use our travel services.”
Setting Clear Payment TermsTravel advisors offer a service that customers should pay for. Charging a service fee is typical, but the key is to advise the customer right at the beginning of the relationship.
I recommend that you include a provision akin to this example: “Planning any vacation takes extensive time and effort before the departure date ever arrives. We have a rate structure to assist with the time spent covering the initial consultation, research and proposal. We will advise you of our fee for your journey. Our consulting fee will be charged at the time of proposal delivery, regardless of whether a client books a trip with us. When a client books a trip with us, this fee also goes toward travel support and the booking of the trip itself. The consulting fees are nonrefundable. We may also collect a commission from the supplier of your trip.”
Above all, transparency is key. Clients need to know that you are a valuable asset, and that they should expect to pay for your services.
Addressing Credit Card ChargebacksThere is one other key issue to address regarding payment: credit card chargebacks.
When discussing this with clients, I suggest using language that states: “While we do accept major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover, customers must provide us a signed charge authorization agreement for every transaction for your trip. Your authorization is a binding agreement for us to charge your card, and as such, you waive any right to a chargeback in the case of cancellation for any cause (excepting fraud), including a force majeure event, as defined herein, and agree to refund policies and procedures as outlined in these terms and conditions. In the event a client attempts to chargeback, reverse or recollect a trip payment already made without our authorization, we reserve the right to collect all additional costs, fees and expenses associated with such chargeback, reversal or recollection, including, without limitation, attorney fees.”
The Inclusion of “Force Majeure”We all now regularly toss around the phrase force majeure; however, having it placed prominently in your agreement is definitely urged after what we have learned from the pandemic.
I recommend clearly defining the phrase: “Force majeure” means, in relation to our agency, in any circumstances beyond our reasonable control, (including, but without limitation, to acts of God, explosion, flood, forceful wind, fire or accident, war or threat of war declared or undeclared, acts of terrorism, sabotage, insurrection, riots, strikes, civil disturbance, sickness, epidemics, pandemics, quarantines, government intervention, weather conditions, defects in machinery and vehicles, delays or other unforeseeable event), we shall not be deemed to be in breach of these terms and conditions or otherwise be liable to you, and shall not provide any refund, by reason of delay in performance, or by non-performance, of any of our obligations hereunder to the extent that any such delay or non-performance is due to any force majeure. If our agency, and/or any of our travel suppliers, are affected by force majeure, they shall be entitled to, and may in their sole and absolute discretion, vary or cancel any itinerary or arrangement in relation to your trip.”
I know that we are in this business to serve and satisfy our customers, but we need to protect ourselves. These suggestions will help accomplish this objective.
Jeffrey Ment currently works as a travel law attorney and previously worked as a travel advisor, airline sales manager and tour guide. For more than 27 years, he has represented individuals and companies in the travel industry.Have a question for Jeffrey? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected]
The DetailsThe Ment Law Groupwww.mentlaw.com