Here are some of the common issues that travel and accommodation businesses should be wary of.
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It is prohibited to promote or state a price that is only part of the cost if you’re not advertising the single or total price. This is called component pricing. Single price is the minimum total cost that can be quantified at the time of making the representation for a consumer to buy the product or service. It is calculated by adding up all price components that you can quantify when making the price representation such as tax, fee, duty, levy or any charge imposed on you. The total price should be prominently displayed and factors such as placement, size, colour, font and even background should be considered.
When taking a booking from a customer, both of you enter into a contract that includes terms and conditions. These can be made orally by agreeing over the phone or in writing by signing a document or clicking an “I agree” button on a webpage. A written agreement that clearly states the terms and conditions, including the cancellation policy, is recommended. Make sure your contracts comply with national unfair contract terms laws that protect consumers from significant imbalance in rights and obligations and the business from unreasonable terms.
Examples of unfair terms include the business being able to cancel the terms of the contract without the consumer being able to do the same, the consumer being liable for things that are outside of his or her control, the business charging the consumer’s credit card without notice or an opportunity to dispute the charges, etc.
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You should make sure that consumers are dealt with fairly in your view. If a court finds an unfair term, it will be treated as if it never existed and if the contract can operate without it, the contract will still be binding.
You should also provide a proof of transaction as soon as possible after a transaction if a consumer has purchased something worth more than $75 excluding GST. For lower priced items, the consumer may ask for a receipt which you should supply within seven days of being asked. A GST tax invoice is sufficient proof of transaction. It should clearly state the business name, ABN, CAN, date of supply, products or services supplied to the consumer and the corresponding price.
A consumer may also ask for an itemised bill that shows how the price was calculated, the number of labour hours, the hourly rates and a list of materials used with the amount charged for them. A consumer may ask for this within 30 days the services are supplied or he or she receives a bill from you. You should provide a clear itemised bill for free within seven days of being asked.
It is important to include a cancellation policy in the booking agreement to avoid potential problems. It should state what will happen in case a booking is cancelled because of events beyond all parties’ control. For online bookings, the terms and conditions should be easily available on the website as failure to disclose these could be considered unfair. Cancellation fees and charges should reflect your reasonable costs so it won’t be considered as penalties, which generally can’t be enforced.
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