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ATAS Complaint Appeal Committee (ACAC)


The ACAC is an independent review body specifically established under ATAS to review and determine customer complaints and allegations of non-compliance with the ATAS Charter and Code. The ACAC reviews complaints elevated to it by the Compliance Manager and can issue binding decisions, including sanctions against a Participant.

In situations where both parties cannot come to an agreement the ACAC plays a vital role in addressing the ATAS participant’s compliance with the ATAS Code of Conduct and ensuring a fair outcome for all parties.

Decisions Relating to Consumer Complaints

29 Mar
No Breach

Ref 23-1114
ISSUE:   The complainant paid a $1,538 deposit to an ATAS Partcipant to book and confirm a $17,999 cruises cheduled to due to depart on 16 November 2023.   At the time of booking an invoice and T&C were provided to the complainant stating that deposits paid were non-refundable.  The complainant’s wife required specialist medical treatmentand they did not know how long it would take to get an appointment, therefore the complainant’s chose to cancel their cruise.   The provider of the service, confirmed to the complainant that as per their terms & conditions they would be imposing only a 50% cancellation fee and the remaining 50% would be returned to the ATAS Particpant.  The ATAS Particpant  advised the complainant that as per their terms & conditions accepted and outlined on the invoice, the deposit paid to them was non-refundable and no refund would be provided.  The complainant was dissatisfied with this outcome and was seeking a refund of $760 from the ATAS Particpant.  The complainant also raised concern regarding dengue fever being present in South America, the ATAS Partipcant's response was to seek advice from a Doctor. 

OUTCOME:  Appeal Dismissed
The Committee is satisfied that the appellant had access to documents that made it clear that the deposit paid to the particpant was non-refundable and there has been no breach of the Code relating to the ATAS Particpants retention of the deposit.  The Committee confirmed that the ATAS Participant is not a doctor and travel agents are not required to provide medical advice – nor should they.  The ATAS Particpant's advice was appropriate in the circumstances and was not a breach of the Code.

14 Nov 2023 No Breach

Ref 23-0637
ISSUE: The customer was travelling on a Dutch passport.  The customer was denied uplift on her flight back to Australia as she did not hold a return resident Visa to re-enter Australia. The customer incurred an additional four nights accommodation in London while she obtained her re-entry Visa to return to Australia. The customer claims in 2019 she had her passport renewed and submitted an application at that time for a return resident Visa. Prior to travel, the agent took photocopies of their passports and checked that they had six months validity on their passports, which is a requirement for travel. The customer feels the agent did not take strong enough action to satisfy that she had a return Visa for Australia. 
The customer claims that the agent did not ask her about whether or not, she had her re-entry Visa to Australia. The customer was seeking a written apology and reimbursement for the additional expenses incurred in London these being accommodation and meal costs. 

OUTCOME:  Appeal Dismissed.
The committee found that The member did all that was expected of it. The member took copies of passports, verified they were current for at least 6 months and made sure the name on the ticket matched the name on the passport. 

13 Oct 2023 Breach

Ref 23-0272
ISSUE: The Appellant booked a self-guided cycle trip with an ATAS Participant. The Appellant maintains that the ATAS member made no suggestion that anyone other than the ATAS Participant was the originator of the product. Upon arrival at the first hotel there should have been documentation (maps, guidebooks, baggage tags etc) waiting, this was not the case when the appellant checked in. Following a phone call to the supplier, the documents were emailed through to the hotel and printed off for the appellant. The documentation provided was incomprehensible, and the appellant purchased a guidebook at his own expense for $28.64 & downloaded a map for $7.00. The appellant was not reimbursed for these costs. The appellant experienced several issues with the equipment and services provided by the supplier, especially in the first 4 days of his journey. In the first 4 days the appellant was provided with 5 different batteries and 3 different bicycles. The appellant complained to the ATAS Member multiple times whilst on the trip and received limited assistance.

OUTCOME: The Committee has determined that the ATAS member will pay the appellant the sum of $622.64, this is in addition to the $ 595.00 already paid.

28 July 2023 No Breach

Ref 23-0205
The appellant booked an airfare and tour via the Agent.  The tour was a prize provided by the supplier won by the appellant. The prize had a nominal value of $3,685.00.  The travel was proposed for June 2020.  Due to the pandemic the travel did not proceed, and future credits were by arrangement with both the airline and the tour operator.   On 9 April 22 the appellant visited a branch to get an update on his credits.  The appellant claims that at that meeting he was told that air and tour credits were to be used to rebook by December 2022 and travel by December 2023.  Minutes after leaving the branch the appellant received an email from the Agent with a copy of the tour operator credit stating that the credit had expired in Dec 2021, the initial expiry date.  He went back into the office and spoke to the staff member.  The appellant claims that despite the email advice, he was told by the Agent that the tour credit was valid for rebooking until the end of 2022.  On 23 November 2022, the appellant attended a branch and attempted to use his tour operator credit and was told that they had expired on 31 December 2021.  The Agent offered the appellant a $500 credit by way of consolation.  The appellant wants the tour operator travel credits to be honored or $3,685 be given towards future travel.

OUTCOME: The Committee notes the $500 offer by the participant to try and resolve the matter. It is not necessary for the Committee to form a final view on the reasonableness of the offer.  This is because when the appeal was being considered by the Committee, the tour operator offered to honour the $3,685.00 credit, subject to some conditions.  Those conditions are not unreasonable, and the offer should be seriously considered by the appellant.  As the Committee is of the view that the offer by the tour operator is an adequate resolution of his complaint, the Committee does not propose to make any further findings.

9 Feb 2023 Breach

Ref  22-1054
ISSUE: The Member provided incorrect advice regarding the Complainant's airline credit and failed to provide the Complainant with a copy of their terms & conditions. The Complainant had mobility issues and was provided an airline connection that was not fit for purpose for a disabled traveller. The Member amended the transit time and absorbed airline fees for this time change. The Member offered the Complainant a $184.60 Refund and a Future Travel Credit of $391 per person.  The Committee finds breaches of Clauses3.2 (vii) and 3.5 of the ATAS Code of Conduct.  

SANCTION: Payment of $184.60 to the Appellants in relation to additional costs incurred. The Agent should provide a further specific apology for failing to properly assist the Appellants in rebooking their flights to accommodate the Appellants’ disability.   On balance, the Committee determines that the $391 per person credit be provided either as a direct Qantas Credit, In cash or by some other agreed benefit or credit that are not Agency credits.  Further the Committee determines that the Agent’s staff undergo additional training in relation to dealing with passengers with a disability and understanding airline credit conditions.  See Clause 3.7 of Code of Conduct re Training requirement. 
2 Feb 2023 No breach

Ref 22-0783
ISSUE: The complainant booked and paid $7,040 for airfares that were subsequently cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  The air tickets were put into a future travel credit with the airline.  The agent provided evidence of putting the Complainant on notice of the expiry date of the credit.  The Complainant failed to use the credits prior to the expiry date advised by the Member and the value of the credit has now been forfeited.  The Committee is of the view that the Agent did not breach any provision of the ATAS Code of Conduct.  Therefore, the Agent does not have to refund the $7,040 claimed by the Complainant.   The Committee recommends that the Complainant raise the matter with the ACCC and Etihad Airways having regard to the 2020 understanding.   The Committee recommends that the Agent provides reasonable assistance to the Complainant in making a complaint to Etihad Airways or the ACCC, including promptly providing details of the communications between the Agent and Etihad Airways when asked to do so by the Complainant. 

OUTCOME: Appeal Dismissed
20 Jan 2023 Breach

Ref 22-1004
ISSUE:  The complainant did not receive all the products as per his tour description.  The Member offered a $500 Future Travel Credit per person and a $500 Refund per person.   It is the view of the Committee that he e ATAS member breached Clauses 3.2 (viii) ( Due care and skill)of the Code of Conduct.   In the circumstances, the Committee is of the view that the member should refund $1,000 for each passenger (a total of $2,000).  The Committee does not agree with the Appellant that the Appellant should receive a $2000 refund per person. Some of the benefits offered as part of the PPP were provided but it does seem that LE did not ensure that all were provided. The Appellant has rejected the offer of $ $500 cash refund per person plus a $500 credit person. The Committee is of the view that credits or part credits are not a proper remedy in such a situation. 

SANCTION:  Refund of $1,000 per passenger (total of $2,000)

3 June 2019 Breach

Ref# 19-0214
ISSUE: The itinerary stated “Virgin Australia” and the Complainant could not identify where to check in as the flight was Code share with “Delta Airlines”. The Complainant missed their flights as by the time they worked out where to check in they had missed the bag check in.

OUTCOME: The Committee was satisfied that the provisions in Clause 3.2(a)(vii) of the Code which states that Agents will act with due care and skill and Clause 3.2(a)(iii) which provides assurance about ‘service quality in the provision of information in a plain and easy-to-understand form’ were not met.

SANCTION: Reimbursement of costs to the sum of $3,407.

18 Feb 2019 No breach

Ref# 18-0936
ISSUE: The complainant booked and paid for a holiday online and received confirmation details. The complainant identified 10 days later that the dates booked were incorrect and not the dates they were seeking. The booking was non-refundable due to the short cancellation period and the complainant sought a full refund.

OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed.

14 Dec 2018 No breach
Ref# 18-1035
ISSUE: The complainant contacted the airline to advise he could not return on a date however did not pay the fee. Did not advise the agent also and thus was recorded as a ‘no show’. Was seeking an exemption from payment of ‘no show’ fee.

OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed. Complainant did not follow clearly stated instruction.
12 Nov 2018 Breach Ref# 18-0919
ISSUE: Complainant had failed to rebook within time however the agent had failed to respond to his last email within time. The agent had refunded and charged a cancellation fee.

OUTCOME: Appeal upheld. Found that the complainant had been placed in a disadvantageous position.

SANCTION: Refund of additional $500 per person.
20 Aug 2018 No breach

Ref #18-0620
ISSUE: The complainant had requested a particular aircraft type for a flight. The airline within their terms of carriage, later changed the aircraft type on that flight, resulting in the complainant having to pay to amend flight so as to fly on the original aircraft type requested.

OUTCOME: Appeal dismissed.

20 Aug 2018 Breach of
s 3.2(a)(iii)

Ref #18-0634
ISSUE: The complainant claimed was told over the phone that travel was by mini-bus however travel was by public transport.

OUTCOME: The Committee was satisfied that some fault lay with the agent and that the amount offered was not sufficient.

SANCTION: A rectification order to increase the refund to $1150 which was half of the amount being claimed was ordered.
18 Jun 2018 No breach Ref #17-1153
ISSUE: The complainant sought to have ‘no show’ fees waived as alleged the agent failed to disclose all relevant information in a plain and easy to understand form. The ATAS Compliance Manager found no breach had occurred.

OUTCOME: The ACAC upheld the decision of the ATAS Compliance Manager.

30 Apr 2028 No breach

Ref #18-0215
ISSUE: Complainant sought to cancel and get a refund following the Mexico earthquake however the Agent did not cancel the trip and proceeded. Complainant alleged that tour was impacted and sought refund for faulty product and for agent to change terms and conditions where a natural disaster occurred. ATAS Compliance Manager found no breach by the Agent.

OUTCOME: ACAC upheld the decision of the ATAS Compliance Manager and found no breach had occurred.

26 Feb 2018 Breach of 3.2(a) Ref #17-1102
Was an online advertisement with imagery of orang-utans and reference to being able to visit an orang-utan sanctuary misleading?

OUTCOME: The Committee found that the agent must take responsibility for checking the detail of what is stated in the promotional material as it is this documentation on which the travelling public relies when deciding to purchase a holiday package. The Agent had already removed the images and references.

SANCTION: The Committee overturned the decision of the ATAS Compliance Manager and ordered a refund of the amount paid for the holiday of $1099.
26 Feb 2018 Breach of 3.2(a)
Ref #17-1037
ISSUE: Was the complainant misled during a telephone conversation about being allowed to smoke on a balcony at the resort? The matter was then referred to the ACCMC for determination.

OUTCOME: Whilst the Committee agreed with the ATAS Compliance Managers decision that a breach of the Code had occurred, they also found that the Agent had not confirmed that smoking was not permitted on the patio and smoking was not completely banned on the premises and that a full refund was not warranted.

SANCTION: The Committee ordered half of the accommodation cost to be refunded rounded to $1500.
8 Dec 2017 Breach of 3.2(a)

Ref #17-0927
ISSUE: Had the Agent breached the Code for failing to disclose ‘all relevant information in a plain and easy-to-understand form’ in relation to advice regarding visas contained in the terms and conditions.

OUTCOME: The Committee found that the Agent had breached the section as they had provided general advice in regard to U.S. visa requirements but no relevant information under the heading ‘Travel to Canada/Mexico’.

SANCTION: Agent to reimburse applicant sum of $2916 for additional costs and for the terms and conditions to be amended and expressed in a plain and easy-to-understand form.

8 Dec 2017 No breach

Ref #17-0922
ISSUE: Tour guide had failed to pick up the complainant; the complainant had missed out on time in departure city; and complaint was about Agents response and handling of complaint. Appeal was based on complainant seeking increase of refund that had been offered.

OUTCOME: The appeal was dismissed.

25 Aug 2017 No breach

Ref#17-0529 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Was the term “pristine beaches” misleading and thus a breach of the Service Quality Promise?

No breach was found and finding s of the Compliance Manager were upheld.

16 Jun 2017 Breach of s3.2(a)

Ref#17-0339 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Was the failure to advise that the sale price was limited to a 24-hour window a breach of the Service Quality Promise?
The Committee found that the travel intermediary had breached its obligations relating to the service quality promise, however as no financial loss was suffered no rectification of costs was ordered.

A Rectification order was sanctioned to review internal processes when communicating with clients to ensure that all relevant and important information is provided when a quote is provided. Further to this, operating procedures must also be reviewed to ensure that when staff members are away ill from operation that alternative arrangements are in place to ensure that pending customer enquiries are appropriately dealt with and in a timely manner.

24 Feb 2017 No breach

Ref#16-0722 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Had the Agent failed to provide the complainant with the requested service and breached the Service Quality Promise?

No breach found and findings of Compliance Manager were upheld.

24 Feb 2017 Breach of s3.2

Ref#16-0856 Appeal by Complainant.
ISSUE: Had the Agent failed to disclose relevant information and breached the Service Quality Promise?

ACAC found Agent had failed to disclose all relevant information in a plain and easy to understand form. The Agent failed this obligation as it advised a refund would be “approximately $2500” yet this amount changed to $1803.72. The notification did not contain any advice that the amount of “approximately $2500” was subject to change and the Agent is thus contractually bound to the statement. The Committee determined that the term “approximately” allows only a 10% window either side of the stated figure.

The Committee ordered a Rectification Or

28 Oct 2016 Breach of s3.2(a) found.
No breach of s4.1(b)(iv)

Ref #16-0826 Matter was referred to ACAC by Compliance Manager.

ISSUE: Had the Agent disclosed the terms and conditions to the complainant and had the Agent acted with respect and courtesy?

OUTCOME: Participant was required to write a written apology to the complainant and provide a report to ACAC detailing actions taken as required by the Improvement Notice.

ACAC Committee

ACAC Chair (Interim) - Hank Spier

Hank Spier is the principal of Spier Consulting, Legal and Spier Consulting P/L, respectively a legal practice and a legal consultancy specialising in regulatory processes and strategies.

Formerly Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission for some 17 years until late 2000. Hank has been a part time member of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and continues to support the ACCC as a consultant in relation to overseas capacity building for competition and consumer institutions.

He has been heavily involved in the development of trade practices law for many years, both in Australia and in developing countries.

Hank remains active across the industries as Chair of the Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia Tribunal, which oversees the Disciplinary regime and complaints alleging misconduct against Association members and imposes sanctions where appropriate.

Hank brings a wealth of knowledge to the ACAC committee with his experience in advising a substantial number of private clients in trade practices issues, including mergers, cartel protection, codes of conduct, collective bargaining, misuse of market power and dispute avoidance and resolution.

Consumer Representative - Philip Field

Philip was the lead ombudsman for banking and finance at the Financial Ombudsman Service and AFCA for 11 years and worked for 17 years at the Ombudsman’s office.

Philip has a very deep understanding of external dispute resolution and fair decision making which would greatly assist the work of the committee. Philip met regularly with key stakeholders including representatives of Financial Counselling Australia, Consumer Action and Financial Rights Legal Centers as well as individual consumer representatives.

Alternate Consumer Representative - Jillian Brewer

A dispute resolution specialist and lawyer with over 30 years’ experience in ombudsman schemes, private practice and government. Expertise includes privacy, consumer law, banking, retail credit, telecommunications, operations management, investigations and compliance. Jillian was worked at the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman In 2012 I was appointed TIO’S first Principal Investigator and in 2016 was given additional duties, taking on Systemic issues, reviews of decisions and Continuous Improvement.

In 2020 I was made Assistant Ombudsman and led the Dispute Resolution area with a team of 110 professionals who resolve escalated disputes between consumers and telecommunications providers (approximately 13,000 each year) and handle objections to statutory land access rights proposed by carriers.

Industry Representative - David Padman

David Padman has been part of the travel industry for over 28 years, starting his career as a Travel Consultant then Store Manager. This is where he discovered an industry full of passionate and exciting people and quickly realised that travel was where his passion lay.

His career began at Flight Centre, moving through the ranks into senior management and holding executive roles within the Corporate Traveller, FCM Travel Solutions and Flight Centre Limited Australia brands. David then moved within the industry to join Travelscene American Express in roles including General Manager Travelscene Corporate before progressing to General Manager of the Travelscene American Express network.

In this role, David was part of the executive team that oversaw one of the industry’s largest transformations; JTG to Helloworld Travel.
Since 2017, David has been the General Manager Independent and Corporate networks at Helloworld Travel Limited, responsible for over 1400 independent travel agents and TMCs. In recent times his role has expanded to oversee Helloworld Travel Limited’s Air Tickets consolidation business, Online businesses and Business Systems and Development areas.

David is passionate about our industry and its future and has served on the AFTA board as both an alternate Director and a Director.

Alternate Industry Representative - Melvyn Almeida

Commencing my professional journey as a Management Trainee with British Airways in Mumbai, India, I subsequently assumed the role of Chief Reservations Officer for Bahrain & Qatar during my posting in Bahrain. Over a decade, I contributed significantly to both British Airways and the GSA Company, YBA Kanoo, where I managed Reservations, Sales, and Marketing for the Middle East, representing 32 airlines.

In 1987, I emigrated to Sydney, Australia, and joined Concorde International Travel, a consolidator now known as Hello World. Concurrently, I served as the Managing Director for Passenger & Cargo for Australia/New Zealand at World Aviation Systems, the company's GSA Division, representing 27 airlines.

In 2007, I assumed the position of Managing Director at AMA Australia within Consolidated Travel Group/Airline Marketing Australia, working closely with Spiros Alysandratos, Owner, and CEO. I represented the company on the IATA APJC Committee and served on the AFTA Board as Spiros' alternate until December 2022.

Complaint Appeal to ACAC Form

You are required to complete this form and attach it when you lodge your appeal via email to note, to ensure procedural fairness is met, the details of your appeal will be shared with the other party.


2024 Monthly Reporting

  Complaints Received Not ATAS    Reviewed and resolved at
Stage 1
Reviewed, Escalated to
Compliance Manager and
resolved at Stage 2
Monies Returned to Consumers
January 2024    47 4 43 0 $0
February 2024 38 4 27 8 $12,576
March 2024 25 2 20 4 $2,916
April 2024 30 1 25 3 $5,400
May 2024 42 7 28 5 $10,830
June 2024 33 2 26 3 $33,955

This is total number of complaints, not complaints escalated to the ACAC. 

2023 Monthly Reporting

  Complaints Received Not ATAS    Reviewed and resolved at
Stage 1
Reviewed, Escalated to
Compliance Manager and
resolved at Stage 2
Monies Returned to Consumers
January 2023    82 6 79 6 $9,496
February 2023 82 11 57 11 $22,824
March 2023 83 3 68 6 $4,289
April 2023 41 3 33 5 $9,369
May 2023 68 6 56 17 $42,439
June 2023 45 3 34 7 $18,546
July 2023 59 1 46 7 $3,795
August 2023 48 4 38 11 $19,777
September 2023 29 4 22 5 $3,374.74
October 2023 36 0 33 4 $10,894
November 2023 36 0 33 5 $985
December 2023 31 3 27 3 $1,196

This is total number of complaints, not complaints escalated to the ACAC.