ON Ministry Releases Phase 1 Report On TIA Review Feedback
Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer services has released a report summarizing findings from stakeholder consultations in the first phase of the review of the province’s Travel Industry Act.
The report also outlines preliminary options for potential changes to the Travel Industry Act which have emerged as a result of these discussions. With the release of the report, phase 1 of the review is complete. The full report can be viewed here.
The Ministry says the following issues are among the key area suggested for consideration:
Increasing consumer protections under the act
Reducing regulatory burden on travel industry businesses
Enhancing enforcement tools, including additional penalties for businesses that don’t comply with the act
Reviewing the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund, including what travel services consumers are able to seek compensation for and who should contribute to the fund
Evaluating the types of activities and businesses that should be regulated under the act
“Overall, the findings suggest that there may be opportunities to update the framework to achieve the goals of the review and be more responsive to today’s marketplace; however, there are differing opinions on the scope and scale of the changes that are needed,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry’s report includes suggestions of potential changes based on initial feedback and key issues identified. Here are some highlights of options under consideration:
Consumer Protection Issues
Remove the specific consumer protection framework for the travel sector and allow consumers to rely on general consumer protection laws; or
Modernize the consumer protection measures under TIA to be more responsive to the current needs of consumers and businesses through measures such as:
Strengthening the regulation of out-of province travel agents who sell and/or market travel services to Ontarians
Increasing consumer awareness and codifying consumer rights when purchasing travel services through a Travellers’ Bill of Rights
Improving training requirements for TIA registrants
Regulatory Burden on the Industry
Remove or amend the existing financial requirements on registrants where the measures may be ineffective, duplicative or pose a heavy burden on small businesses
Introduce alternative measures to assess registrants’ financial health in order to focus on the areas that pose the greatest risk to consumers
Compliance & Enforcement
Adopt new approaches to strengthen enforcement, including granting TICOnew compliance and enforcement tools, such as the ability to levy administrative monetary penalties on registrants.
Travel Industry Compensation Fund
Maintain the existing scope of the fund
Narrow the scope of the fund so that it only covers those situations which are currently not covered through other avenues, such as credit card chargebacks (e.g., coverage for the cost of returning passengers back to Ontario in the event of a bankruptcy or insolvency when travelling internationally)
Expand the scope of the fund (e.g., to provide coverage where there is failure to provide services due to the bankruptcy or insolvency of additional end suppliers), while also adopting a consumer-funded model
Make the fund optional so that consumers can opt to pay into the fund, if they choose to receive additional coverage
Registration (Who is Covered)
Reconsider the existing exemptions under TIA to determine if they are still relevant
Create new exemptions for some activities which either pose a low financial risk to consumers or are already regulated through other means
Require individual sellers of travel services to be registered
Create new classes of registration with varying obligations
Based on the feedback provided in phase 2 of the review, the Ministry says it will work with stakeholders to develop a set of options and recommendations which may include potential changes to the act and/or the regulation. These options and recommendations will be detailed in a final report which will again be posted for stakeholder feedback.
“TICO encourages all stakeholders to participate in the Ontario Government's comprehensive review by reviewing the Phase 1 Report and provide your input by either attending one of the public consultation sessions being held around the Province or by providing your input by email to TravelIndustryAct@ontario.ca by 14APR, 2017," said Richard Smart, TICO President and CEO.