TICO Advisory On Unrest in Israel And Registrant Obligations

With the devastating humanitarian situation happening in Israel, and the Canadian government’s travel advisory for the region, registrants have been supporting impacted consumers.

However, TICO has received several questions about registrants’ responsibilities under the Travel Industry Act, 2002 (the Act) and Ontario Regulation 26/05 (the Regulation).

Conditions that may impact a consumer’s decision to purchase travel services

Registrants are required to warn customers of the war. Prior to reserving travel services for a customer, a travel agent shall bring to the customer’s attention any conditions that the travel agent has reason to believe may affect the customer’s decision to make the purchase.

This would include any safety concerns relating to the travel destination at the time of booking, regardless of whether the government has issued a travel advisory for that destination.

Relevant section of the Regulation: 36(a)

Advising customers of changing conditions

Travel agents may also have a continuing obligation to inform customers of a deteriorating situation in the travel destination after the travel services have been reserved.

After booking, if there is a change to any matter that is referred to in a representation (e.g., an advertisement or brochure) that, if known, might have affected the customer’s decision to purchase, the registrant shall promptly advise the customer of the change.

Relevant section of the Regulation: 37

Terms and conditions

Consumers who have bookings to the affected destinations are subject to the terms and conditions of the booking, which may include possible penalties for changes and cancellations.

Relevant section of the Regulation: 36

There is no provision in the Act or the Regulation that requires a registrant to provide a refund or offer alternate travel services because a government advisory has been issued.

While some suppliers may choose to offer a goodwill gesture to their customers, registrants should consider all their contractual and legal obligations in determining how to address the situation.

Duty of registrant who resells travel services

Registrants who acquire the rights to travel services (e.g., tour packages) for resale, and experience a situation where a supplier (e.g., airline, cruise line, etc.) fails to provide the travel services, must provide one of the following options to the customer:

  • A refund
  • Comparable alternate travel service – as long as it is acceptable to the customer
  • A voucher/credit or similar document – as long as it is acceptable to the customer

This applies to registrants with contractual obligations for travel services and where a registrant has engaged suppliers to bundle multiple travel services, which are advertised and sold to either other registrants or customers for a single price.

Relevant section of the Regulation: 46

Registrants’ responsibilities – accommodations

Registrants may be responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that the accommodations sold to customers are in the same condition as described by the registrant at the time of sale, when the time comes for the customer to use those travel services.

If the accommodations are not in such condition, the registrant must promptly notify the travel agent or customer, and must offer the customer a choice of a full and immediate refund or comparable alternate services acceptable to the customer.

What if the accommodations are part of a package?

If the accommodations are sold as part of a package that includes transportation to a destination, the refund or comparable alternative services must apply to the entire package. If the accommodations were sold separately, the requirement is to offer a refund or comparable alternative services for the accommodations.

Relevant sections of the Regulation: 37 and 39

Registrants’ responsibilities – flights and other transportation

Registrants have an obligation to offer customers a full immediate refund or comparable alternate services if the transportation they have purchased is delayed or advanced by more than 24 hours.

However, this rule does not apply if the delay or advancement is due to mechanical problems with a vehicle, ship or aircraft, safety considerations, weather conditions, a strike or lock-out or a force majeure (such as a natural disaster). In these situations, a refund or comparable alternative services do not need to be offered. Customers would be subject to the terms and conditions of the booking.

Relevant section of the Regulation: 40

For those with additional questions email TICO at [email protected] or call 1-888-451-TICO (8426).