Agents have launched a petition urging Abta to change its policy on how it refunds Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) bookings, claiming the association “moved the goalposts” after updating guidance to members in the months after the cruise line’s failure.
As reported by TTG on 19 February, agents have repeated their frustrations at having to reimburse commission after only some refunds from the collapsed company were paid out in full.
Abta has said it will only refund the net value of bookings already cancelled due to Covid-19 before CMV’s parent firm South Quay Travel & Leisure failed on 20 July last year.
Abta is covering in full those bookings that were cancelled as a result of CMV’s failure.
In a statement to TTG on 19 February, an Abta spokesperson said the Package Travel Regulations and its own financial protection programme had “never covered, nor been intended to cover, commission payments in addition to providing a refund to consumers”.
Abta has given no indication it will change its stance, prompting Cruise Circle managing director Jason Daniels to create the petition calling on Abta to reconsider.
Daniels’ agency had about 30 affected bookings, losing around £8,000 in commission that would have to be passed back to customers.
He has argued that as CMV had committed to protecting agent commission on bookings cancelled due to Covid – specifically where the balance had already been taken by the agent and the commission earned – Abta should pay the difference between the gross and net booking values.
The petition has so far received the backing of a number of cruise specialist agencies including Vision Cruise, Cruise365, Cruise Select and Ponders Travel.
Nick Belger, commercial and operations director at Vision Cruise, which has lost more than £8,000 in commission across 40 CMV bookings, said he was “really disappointed with Abta’s continued stance on the matter” and said the agency would “do whatever to obtain a U-turn on their decision”.
Michelle Hunter, manager of Connoisseur Travel Services, which had to refund around £4,000 in commission to CMV clients across 15 bookings, added: “The fact Abta is refusing to change their policy, even with the pleas of affected agents, is very disheartening. We hold out hope they will reconsider and listen to the agents they protect.”
According to Daniels, an issue that has angered the group has been alleged amendments to Abta’s Refund Credit Note policy, which he said “vindicated its stance retrospectively".