TORONTO — TICO is reminding registrants that requirements for issuing travel vouchers / future travel credits will revert to normal pre-pandemic procedures effective April 1, 2023.
That means that come April 1, a voucher / credit, certificate, coupon or similar document for future travel services can only be offered if it is acceptable to the customer.
Since March 30, 2020, registrants who acquired the rights to travel services for resale could choose to offer customers a voucher/credit, certificate, coupon or similar document if a supplier (e.g., airline or cruise line) failed to provide a travel service due to COVID-19. That temporary policy ends effective April 1, 2023.
Says TICO: “This was a temporary, time-limited regulatory amendment that recognized the significant hardship that providing a cash refund would impose on some registrants, given the pandemic’s impact on the industry, while ensuring consumers were protected. On April 1, 2023, this temporary regulatory amendment will expire.”
REGISTRANTS’ VOUCHER / CREDIT OBLIGATIONS AS OF APRIL 1, 2023
As TICO notes in its latest newsletter, as of April 1, 2023, registrants’ obligations will revert to the regulatory requirement that was in place prior to the pandemic. A voucher/credit, certificate, coupon or similar document for future travel services can only be offered if it is acceptable to the customer.
Further, registrants who acquire the rights to travel services for resale, and experience a situation where a supplier (e.g., airline or cruise line) 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; or
- 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.
For more details, registrants are asked to see Section 46 of Ontario Regulation 26/05. Questions can be directed to TICO’s Compliance Department at email@example.com or 1-888-451-TICO (8426).
UPDATE FROM TICO PRESIDENT & CEO RICHARD SMART
Meanwhile TICO’s 2023 Business Plan, also just released, includes an update from TICO President and CEO, Richard Smart.
Smart says that at a macro level, Ontario’s regulated travel sector sales are trending close to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, although there is significant variability across business segments.
“It remains unclear if this pace of recovery can be sustained with the expected headwinds. For these reasons, we remain optimistic, but continue to monitor risks and take a cautious approach to the strategic initiatives reflected in our business plan,” he says.
Smart adds that the Ministry is reassessing regulatory proposals under the Travel Industry Act, 2002 that were being considered before the pandemic. “We also remain focused on enhancing TICO’s value proposition to registrants and consumers, improving service delivery and increasing overall consumer awareness of TICO.”
In September 2022 Smart announced that TICO was undertaking a comprehensive review of TICO’s funding framework and fee model, including the industry-financed Compensation Fund. The goal: to establish an optimal fee model and help support financial stability, and to ensure sufficient funding.
“This is a significant undertaking, the largest study ever completed in TICO’s 25-year history,” says Smart. “Our goal of becoming a modern regulator is truly a journey. With this goal in mind, we have made several positive changes in recent years, but there remains a lot more to accomplish. An effective regulator must always deliver on its core mandate but also embrace innovation, invest for the future and be willing to make bold decisions, balanced with a low tolerance for undue risk. It is with these principles in mind, that we have engaged an expert third-party to assist management in arriving at a funding model to meet the needs of consumers, registrants, and other stakeholders for the next decade and beyond. Stakeholder engagement is a key facet of this initiative and I truly look forward to your support.”
In the wake of TICO’s Septmeber 2022 announcement, ACTA reached out for member input before submitting its own feedback to the government. And earlier this year CATO stepped up its calls for a consumer-pay model for the Comp Fund.