Festivals Seek To Tap Bloated Quebec Travel Compensation Fund
as FICAV, the compensation fund for customers of travel agents in
Quebec has now reached the startling balance of $125 million. Even more
surprising, the fund rarely spends much on compensation.
current legislation, FICAV funds cannot be used for any other purpose
than traveller compensation, but a group representing 28 major festivals
in the province would like to get its hands on some of it.
association REMI is interested in using some of the money collected
over the years by the Quebec consumer protection office (OPC) through
FICAV. The funds would be used for international promotion of Quebec as a
is administered by the OPC. Unlike the Ontario travel compensation
fund, Quebec employs a consumer-pay model, wherein travellers pay $1 for
every $1,000 of services purchased through a Quebec-licensed travel
Association des Agents de Voyages du Québec (AAVQ) and the Association
des tour opérateurs du Québec (ATOQ) say they support the goal of FICAV,
but they also point out that it has not been put to use as was
the years, it has mostly been credit card companies which have refunded
consumers eligible for compensation. With some 80 to 85% of travel
purchased via credit cards, FICAV is rarely used. Observers say this is
just fine with OPC, which recommends that consumers go to their credit
card companies first when seeking compensation.
ATOQ says the practice of letting credit card companies foot the bill
has had a negative financial impact on tour operators, agencies and
consumers. The association says the situation is leading credit card
companies to demand ever-higher financial guarantees and astronomical
merchant fees from travel agents. And at the end of the day the consumer
pays the price, ATOQ says.
card companies have been pressing the OPC for years to revise its
practices and allow them to seek refunds from FICAV for the sums they
have reimbursed to consumers. There are no signs of resolution on the
Transat, the country's largest receptive operator, the idea of using
excess FICAV funds to promote tourism in the province is not out of the
question, but it says before that could happen a number of conditions
should be met.
vertically-integrated travel giant says the government must ensure that
FICAV is used for its intended purpose, says Transat CEO Jean-Marc
Eustache. Like ATOQ, he points to the ongoing negotiations with the OPC
to permit credit card companies to have access to the fund.
is simply not used for what it was intended to do, which is ultimately
to act as the first payer. Without an adequate ruling on this matter, no
quick decision should be made concerning the future of the fund,"
Transat CEO says the provincial government, in tandem with the
industry, must determine a minimum amount FICAV should be maintained at
in order to fulfill its mission. In Ontario, where the travel industry
rather than the consumer pays for the fund, TICO has set a figure of $25
million for an appropriate Compensation Fund balance.
the law permit it and if the occasion arises, only the excess amounts
should be utilized to promote Quebec as a tourism
destination, internationally," Eustache says.