The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA Canada) has slammed the Québec Office of Consumer Protection (OPC) and the Québec Ministry of Justice for holding a press conference outlining changes to the “Travel Agents Act.” ARTA says the proposed changes proposed have not been enacted and the press conference was “premature and inappropriate.”
ARTA’s position is borne out by news reports on the press conference, which present the changes as a fait accompli. A CBC News headline reads “Quebec Expands Protections for Travellers,” while a CTV News story is titled “New Law Protects Travellers.”
According to ARTA, the proposed new rules are draft regulations only, and a public comment period is open until May 23rd, allowing any interested party to share opinions or concern about the proposed regulations with the Ministry of Justice.
“It was completely inappropriate for the Québec Government to hold such an event during an open comment period, and the characterizations made, including postings on the OPC website, led people to believe that the new regulations had already been approved. It is incomprehensible that the Government could not have waited until the comment period closed and the comments themselves were analyzed. After all, isn’t that why public comments are solicited in the first place?” asked ARTA Canada President Bruce Bishins.
ARTA Canada published its own comments on its website yesterday and solicited comments from Québec agents. An email campaign asking agents to provide input was sent to more than 12,000 agents, and ARTA Canada’s request for comments and links to comment forms topped the headlines in Québec online travel media publications yesterday.
Agents were quick to respond, with nearly 450 comments received yesterday. ARTA says the overwhelming majority expressed opposition to many of the proposed changes to the “Travel Agents Act.”
The main proposed amendments and modifications to Québec’s “Travel Agents Act” include:
• Creation of two new classes of licences, namely, the general licence for travel agents and the restricted licence for adventure travel organizers, outfitters and regional tourist associations.
• Conditions for issuing and renewing a travel counsellor certificate including registration fees and examinations.
• Requirements for opening a travel agency in a home.
• Restrictions for travel agents working for more than one travel agency.
• Limitations on the distance between a travel counsellor’s home and the travel agency location.
While the comments denounced the intent to certify individual travel agents and implement work rules which have nothing whatsoever to do with consumer protection, many of the comments expressed anger at increased regulatory fees, cost barriers to the profession, and financial conditions which are overly burdensome.
ARTA is still soliciting comments from all agencies in Québec through May 20th. Agents can review more detailed information about the draft regulations and make comments for inclusion in ARTA Canada’s submission to the Government of Québec by visiting: www.artacanada.ca/opcenglish.