Steffan Ileman, CEO of Cimaco Travel, a YVR based agency and airline consolidator is seeking the refund of B.C. agency license fees and other related charges collected from travel agents through a legal action brought forward by the Canada Travel Alliance against the province. Ileman is also the President of the Canada Travel Alliance which he formed in March of 2008 to lobby provincial governments to legislate minimum commissions for travel agents in addition to other measures for the protection of the industry.
A BC Supreme Court judge ruled October 23rd, 2009 that the Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA), recently renamed Consumer Protection BC, may have to refund the fees collected from travel agents if Cimaco’s constitutional claim against the province is successful. Cimaco claims that the Province has no jurisdiction under the Constitution Act to regulate IATA-appointed agents as part of a federally regulated interpovincial network.
The BC Travel Agents Act was legislated in 1977 to establish a Travel Assurance Fund. The Act exempted scheduled air passenger services by IATA members from the scope of the Fund. The BC Government repealed the Act, the Travel Registrar’s Office, and other consumer protection services in 2004 and passed on its authority to a private corporation called BPCPA.
In its claim filed under Cimaco International Sales, Inc vs Her Majesty The Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia and Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority, Vancouver Registry, No S-087062 at the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Cimaco is also claiming damages for allegations of negligence against the Province and BPCPA in relation to the alleged misappropriation of trust funds by IATA, and for allegation of malfeasance in public office against BPCPA in relation to its licensing practices.
The matter is currently at the BC Court of Appeal. The Court has reserved judgment on a hearing held May 19th, 2010. The allegation of misappropriation of trust funds concerns IATA’s seizure of funds from agents’ trust accounts against debit notes (ADM’s), a practice that started in 2007. Under BC’s Business Practices & Consumer Protection Act the funds are protected against any type of seizure, and all collection activity must be duly authorised by BPCPA. BPCPA has stated that neither the Authority nor the Province has any jurisdiction to interfere in agents’ business with IATA.
Cimaco says this is an admission that supports its constitutional claim. Cimaco may apply for certification of its claim as class action and invites input from travel agents by e-mail to email@example.com.
The Canada Travel Alliance is planning to hold its first general meeting in Vancouver in August to elect an executive committee and to incorporate the Alliance. There is no membership fee to join. Ileman says, “ I see the future of the Alliance as a trade union that will represent independent agents’ interests in the legal and political domain, not play both sides of the fence like ACTA.“