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#362 Consumer Rights: Travel Agents and Promoters

mp3 #362 Travel Agents and Promoters - What are your Rights? (mp3 file)

Travel is the third largest business in the United States, and the largest single item in world trade. The increase in the number of people traveling has created a demand for "travel experts" to coordinate trips and tours. As a result, many people who want to see friendly faces in exotic places consult either a travel agent or a travel promoter.

A travel agent is officially appointed by a carrier - for example, an airline or cruise line - to represent it in promoting and selling transportation. An agent receives a certificate of appointment from each carrier he represents.

A travel promoter arranges for air or sea transportation and other related services, but does not have an official appointment from a carrier.

Travel is a competitive business, and by doing some comparative shopping, you should be able to come up with the trip you want at the best price. You don't usually pay more when you use a travel agent or promoter - these people earn a commission from the travel business. But you should be careful that your money is used wisely.

The main problems encountered with travel agents are misrepresentation of services or length of the tour, and refunds, while the main problems with travel promoters involve services not provided. So if you don't want to end up on a 3 day 2 night tour, where the first day begins with a departure at 11:30 P.M. and the third day ends with a 2 A.M. return, keep the following hints in mind.

When shopping for a tour, consider:

-Class of passage and accommodations. If you pay much less, be prepared to sacrifice in certain areas.

-Amount of time in each location.

-Number of free days.

-Number of meals included each day - it will affect your additional costs.

-Number and ages of other tour participants, if the information is available.

Above all, carefully read the contract you are signing and ask questions if you have any. Don't be pressured into signing, and watch out for "applications" that are actually contracts.

California law requires that a travel promoter give the following information when you make your first payment (while the law doesn't require travel agents to give you this information, you should ask for it). Be sure you get the following information:

-The name, address and phone number of the travel promoter.

-The date, amount and purpose of the payment made, and an itemized statement of the balance due, if any. You should get a receipt.

-The location and number of the trust account or alternate bond required by law (a bond or trust account is not required of travel agents). Each travel promoter is required to deposit 90%' of the funds received from customers into a trust account until the monies are paid to the individuals or companies who actually provide the services. An adequate bond is a corporate bond in an amount set by contract between the transportation carrier and the travel promoter.

-The name of the carrier contracted with, the type of equipment to be used, and the date, time and place of each departure.

-The conditions of cancellation between the travel promoter and his customers, if any. You can lose money if you don't fully understand how and when you can cancel your contract. For example, you may sign a contract requiring that you pay at least 90 days before the departure date, and stating that you can't cancel less than 30 days before the departure date without losing all or part of the amount you paid.

-The conditions of cancellation between the travel promoter and the carrier, if any.

-A statement that if the transportation is canceled through no fault of yours, the travel promoter must return all money paid for services not performed unless you state· otherwise in writing. (You unfortunately could experience a delay in getting this money back).

-When you pay your fare in full, the travel promoter is required to give you a ticket or voucher if you request it. Do so - the ticket or voucher will protect you from becoming stranded if problems develop on the trip.

-If you encounter difficulties with services sold you through a travel agent or promoter which he can't or won't resolve, you may have little recourse. You can try complaining to the carrier or hotel involved in your difficulties,

-Or to your local consumer affairs agency or the California Department of Consumer Affairs at , or

-To the State Attorney General in Sacramento at , or to the

-American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA - an international professional society of travel agents) which can try to mediate your complaint. You can find them on the web at

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