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One step forward, two steps back. It can feel like a bit of a dance sometimes when advocating for an overhaul of TICO’s Compensation Fund or at least it can appear that way.
For many years, industry groups have advocated for a change to the Compensation Fund, with most looking towards the Quebec model as an example but CATO is hoping this will be the year of change.
“I don't want to squelch our determination,” says Brett Walker, CATO Chair. “Nothing's changed. In decades. We've been having this conversation over and over and over again and we continue to have this conversation and now the world has completely changed. So if nothing's changed (with consumer protection), then how can the consumer be any better off?”
CATO announced its withdrawal from the TICO board earlier this summer and at Thursday’s ACTA summit in Toronto, Walker, Jean Hébert, Executive Director and David Green, Vice Chair met with media for a “state of the union” on what they’re hoping to accomplish this year.
“We have been advocating for a very, very, very long time with regards to better consumer protection for Ontarians. And as we see it, it's just not the case right now. The Compensation Fun is wholly inadequate anyway you look at it - from the from the fund itself, to the funding of the fund.”
Walker says TICO's composition change and new industry advisory committee may address industry concerns, but a lack of transparency remains a major concern and the industry still feels underrepresented.
One bone of contention is the review process itself; groups like CATO aren’t included in the consultation and don’t see results until the review itself is published.
“In my opinion, it's more of an information session, as opposed to a real consultation. Because the outcome of it is that we don't see the report until it's published and after it was approved by many committees of the board, the board itself, the government, and the Minister.
How can you then go in reverse?”
CATO and ACTA are leaning towards the Quebec model where the consumer pays a nominal fee on travel booked through TICO advisors. The model was so successful that Quebec had to stop accepting funds, though they kept the line item on statements to maintain consumer awareness.
That consumer awareness is another component CATO recognizes in order to better facilitate change. Many, if not most, travellers aren’t even aware of the compensation fund. The CATO teams believes the best way to make the consumer award is to add a small fee to the advisor invoices.
David Green, who is from the UK where the line item is common, says that’s a way to ensure the consumer knows they’re protected.
“The consumer knows about because there is a tiny fee on their booking and customers will ask What is this? It gives reassurance and it gives brand awareness for TICO protection. We feel the same thing could work particularly here.”
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