Consumers booking travel with an online provider should:
- research the business first. Read reviews and comments on travel websites and blogs
- look for a business whose website displays clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds
- check the browser bar on the payments page includes basic security features, such as a padlock symbol or address starting with 'https://'
- if possible, pay by credit card, or by debit card using the 'credit' function. If they do not get what they paid for, consumers may be able to seek a chargeback from their bank. If they paid by PayPal and things go wrong, they may be able to make use of its dispute resolution processes
- check that the business' website includes its contact details, such as a phone number and email address
- carefully read terms and conditions, so they know their options if they have to change or cancel a booking
- be wary of anyone who advertises travel services (such as accommodation) on a third-party platform, then encourages them to pay directly, rather than through the platform's payment process. If a consumer pays this way, they may not be able to use the platform's dispute resolution process if something goes wrong
- take out travel insurance.
Australian Consumer Law rights may also apply when buying from an overseas online business, but consumers might find it difficult to get a refund or other solution if they do not get what they paid for.
Booking with an agent
When booking travel with an agent consumers should:
- look for an agent who is accredited. The Australian Federation of Travel Agents' Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) provides accreditation for general travel agency services, while other bodies provide accreditation for specific areas of the industry (such as ticketing or particular types of travel). Accredited companies are required to meet certain professional standards and criteria; some, such as ATAS, have their own dispute resolution options. To find an accredited agent, visit the ATAS website.
- book with an agent who advertises their services and any deals clearly
- choose an agent who listens closely to what they want, answers their questions, makes appropriate suggestions, and explains any terms and conditions
- get advice from family and friends about agents they have used
- consider the method of payment. If they pay with a credit card or select 'credit' on their debit card, they may be able to seek a chargeback from their bank if they pay and do not get what they paid for
- carefully read the terms and conditions, so they know their options if they have to change or cancel a booking
- ask the agent if they have insolvency insurance. This will help protect the consumer if their agent stops operating and they have not received what they paid for
- take out travel insurance. Consumers can either purchase this through the agent, or independently.
Consumer rights when booking a holiday
The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) protects consumers when they buy products and services, including travel, under a range of 'consumer guarantees'. For more information, view our Guarantees that apply automatically page.
Under the ACL, travel agents must:
- ensure that their promotional material and other information is not false or misleading
- inform consumers of any increase in costs or changes as soon as possible
- quote accurate prices and ensure optional surcharges are clear and prominently displayed.
Consumer rights when a flight is cancelled
Whether consumers are entitled to a refund can depend on:
- the reason for the cancellation
- the terms and conditions of the contract with the airline
- the travel insurance policy (if the consumer has one)
- the airline's ability to organise alternative flights
- the airline's refund policy (check their website for details).
If consumers book and do not get what they paid for
- Consumers should try to resolve the problem with the business first. For a step-by-step guide on how to do this, view Resolve your problem or complaint.
- If consumers used an ATAS-accredited agent, they should have a dispute resolution procedure in place or consumers can contact ATAS directly. For details, visit the ATAS website.
- If consumers booked with a credit card or selected 'credit' on their debit card, they should contact their bank or credit card provider as soon as possible to apply for a chargeback. For more information, view Chargeback.
- If the problem is with an airline that participates in the Airline Customer Advocate (ACA) scheme, visit the ACA website.
- Check travel insurance policies, to see what the consumer is covered for.
If consumers booked travel and the business stops operating before they get what they paid for, view Insolvency.
If there is a problem with a service, or if you are having a dispute with the supplier, view Resolve your problem or complaint.