30 Apr

ABTA – looking after customers in good times and bad

Over the last two weeks ABTA has been providing advice and assistance to thousands of customers whose flights had been cancelled because of the cloud of volcanic ash. Throughout the month over 61,000 customers accessed www.abta.com to look at the FAQs and other essential information explaining customer rights. In addition ABTA sent out 30 updates to its members and conducted 86 television and radio interviews helping to ensure customers knew their rights and had the most up to date information.

Dispute resolution is another key ABTA customer service and from May 1 ABTA is formalising changes to its arbitration scheme which will help customers and ABTA members resolve their differences without having to pay legal or court costs. Customers will still have access to ABTA’s independent arbitration scheme for intractable problems, but ABTA has been trialling a pre-arbitration notice which has resulted in a substantial increase in the proportion of disputes resolved without the need to go to arbitration, this will now become a key part of the dispute solving process.

Mark Tanzer ABTA Chief Executive said “The volcanic ash cloud showed the real value of booking with an ABTA member and the great emphasis we place on looking after the British travelling public. Our arbitration scheme is an essential part of our customer service and has provided an independent, good value and efficient dispute resolution service for 30 years and we are justly proud of it. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the scheme and arbitration should only be used after all other avenues have been exhausted. The pre-arbitration notice will ensure that many more customers achieve a happy outcome without needing to take this final step”

Customers will also have 12 months from the end of their holiday to enter into arbitration, an increase of 3 months on the current time limit allowing greater flexibility and access to the scheme.

Arbitration is offered to consumers as an alternative to the Small Claims Court with a turn around of no more than 8 weeks and often significantly lower costs than the courts. Since 2001 there has been no increase in arbitration fees. From May 1, fees both to consumers and ABTA Members will be raised to cover the costs of administering the scheme.

New Arbitration charges from 1/5/10            

Claim Amounts ABTA Arbitration Scheme Small Claims Court
Claims up to £3,000 £90 plus VAT Up to £235
£3,001 - £7,500 £150 plus VAT Up to £525
£7,501 - £25,000 £330 plus VAT Up to £525

Full details of the arbitration scheme can be found at www.abta.com