Many travel agents unprepared for new holiday rights certificate
The consumer watchdog Which? is advising holidaymakers not to book with travel agents or websites that cannot provide the new holiday rights certificate.
The holiday rights certificate is part of an Atol initiative to help holidaymakers understand their rights should their tour operators collapse. However, Atol says not all travel agents or websites are prepared for the new scheme.
While major tour operators have known of the scheme for some time, adjusting their IT systems accordingly, many smaller firms have not.
"There are still a lot of companies who have got a lot of work to do," said Alan Bowen from the Association of Atol Companies. "I am not sure that everyone who goes into a travel agent is going to get an Atol certificate. There is still considerable confusion within the industry."
The holiday rights certificate is meant to clarify what parts of a holiday are protected, making claims for refunds easier. Customers booking flights and holidays were due to be handed or emailed the certificates from Monday 1 October.
If part of the holiday proves not to be covered, customers can arrange separate insurance. They are also protected by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which allows disappointed holidaymakers to claim from their credit card providers.
The uncertainty over the holiday rights certificate has prompted Which? to caution holidaymakers over their choice of travel agents and websites. A Which? spokesperson said: "We would advise consumers not to book through a travel agent who is unable to issue an Atol certificate."
According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the protection will stand even if certificates are not ready. However, it conceded there would be teething problems.
"Some smaller firms will have difficulty in issuing the certificates straight away," said the CAA's David Clover, adding that as long as people knew their holidays were protected by the Atol scheme they should not be worried.
"The key thing is to make sure that consumers get a document that provides them with details of what is Atol-protected."