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Travel Law FAQ

 

TRAVEL LAW

What is Travel Law?
     Travel Law describes the nexus of federal, state, common law and international laws that regulate the day-to-day workings of the travel industry. The need for a body of law specific to the travel industry became evident with the deregulation of the travel industry that occurred in the 1970s. When the federally-mandated deregulation process was finished, the travel industry found itself in need of a central source of legal guidance where it could turn for its travel-specific issues, and the field of Travel Law was born. Travel Law incorporates elements of contract law, employment issues, tourism and hospitality procedures, anti-trust rules, regulatory and agency compliance, and knowledge of certain international treaties, into a comprehensive guide for the travel industry. 

Which states presently require registration or licensing for Travel Agents?
     Every state has general consumer disclosure and fraud statutes, and refund policy requirements, some specifically addressing in part travel services companies, which are applicable to any business that arranges, markets or sells travel services. Some of these statutes even specify the activities of companies that provide travel services.  However, the following states are examples of states that have specific laws for the regulation, registration, licensing, or bonding of sellers of travel:


          CALIFORNIA
          FLORIDA 
          HAWAII 
          ILLINOIS 
          IOWA 
          LOUISIANA 
          MASSACHUSETTS 
          MICHIGAN 
          NEVADA 
          NEW YORK 
          PENNSYLVANIA  
          VIRGINIA 
          WASHINGTON (STATE)


     Of these states, there are currently six states which require registration as a seller of travel regardless of where the agency is located: California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, and Washington. Some states such as Oregon, Ohio, and Texas have implemented, then repealed their seller of travel registration programs. 

     Washington and Florida have additional regulations regarding Independent Agents and Outside Sales Agents. Travel clubs also must adhere to additional requirements in California and Virginia. Some states require submission of certificates and disclosure language as part of their seller of travel application. 

     While seller of travel regulations vary from state to state, every license issuing state requires registration, fees and compliance with some financial security regulation or statute. Some states offer options to meet the financial security requirements by providing: a letter of credit, a certificate of deposit, or maintaining a bond or trust account. Other states offer exemptions from the financial security requirement, particularly favoring those sellers of travel that are ARC appointed agencies. 

     As a matter of Preventive Legal Care®, sellers of travel that are marketing, arranging or selling travel in the above-mentioned states should promptly submit applications to avoid late fees and penalty fines. Anolik Law Corporation assisted in the drafting of the original seller of travel regulation in California. While our firm feels that the various aspects of the seller of travel statutes are unfair to consumers and sellers of travel, we have provided assistance in compliance with the travel laws for over 30 years.


CALIFORNIA 

     California has one of the most strict and most extensive seller of travel programs in the nation. All sellers of travel must register with the California Attorney General Seller of Travel Program.  A seller of travel is anyone that markets, sells, arranges or offers to market, sell, or arrange air or sea transportation to a resident of California or from an office located in California. California sellers of travel are required to register 10 days prior to offering air or sea travel in California. Thereafter, there is a late fee of $5 per day, up to a maximum of $1,000. California Business and Professions Code § 17550 et seq.

     For businesses located in California, there are two registration programs, one with The Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC) which administers a consumer fund, and another California Seller of Travel Program (CST) administered and enforced by the California Attorney General. Out of state businesses need only register with the CST program, and indeed, cannot register with the TCRC which requires in state agencies to pay into a consumer fund.

     The California Attorney General strictly enforces the seller of travel law and prosecutes companies that fail to display, or improperly display, the California Seller of Travel Registration number (CST#) as mandated by statute. 

     Companies that offer, distribute, or sell travel certificates, coupons, vouchers, travel passes, et cetera are also required to comply with the special California seller of travel statutes.


FLORIDA 

     The Florida seller of travel statute regulates a broad range of travel services, including individuals and entities that sell or offer to sell prearranged travel, tourist related services, or tour guides services, which includes, air, sea and land. Florida Statute 559.926 et seq.

     The distribution of travel certificates in Florida is also highly regulated as the state requires a $50,000 bond, and extensive disclosure requirements for the seller of travel. For this reason, many sellers of travel restrict the distribution of certificates in Florida and make a notation on their other certificates “not for distribution in Florida.” 

     Florida also requires independent agents to register, but they are not required to post a bond as long as they meet standards as determined by statute.


HAWAII 

     Sellers of travel which have any physical location in Hawaii are required to go through a separate application process to do business before applying for a Hawaii seller of travel registration. Hawaii requires sellers of travel services to maintain a trust account as financial security requirement. Certain exemptions may apply.  Hawaii Revised Statute 468L; Hawaii Administrative Rule 16-116


ILLINOIS 

     Illinois has established a travel promoter program that is sufficiently broad enough to include agents, travel agencies, outside sales agents, independent contractors, tour operators, and travel clubs. Under the Illinois Travel Promotion Consumer Protection Act a travel promoter is required to establish and maintain a trust account in a federally insured bank or savings and loan association.  815 ILCS 420.


IOWA 

     Iowa has a seller of travel program that applies to persons or companies that consult with and advise others concerning travel arrangements or accommodations. Iowa grants exemptions to its bond requirements for ARC appointed agencies. Iowa Code Chapter 9D.


LOUISIANA 

     Louisiana travel agencies must pay an occupational license tax based on gross commissions. This license fee applies to sellers of travel as well as tourist camps, travel agencies hotels, motels, rooming houses, boarding houses, and nursing homes.


MASSACHUSETTS 

     The Massachusetts statutes regarding sellers of travel are largely related to consumer protection from “an unfair or deceptive act or practice” in the sale of travel services to the public.


MICHIGAN 

     While there are no seller-of-travel registration statutes, registration programs, or bonding requirements in Michigan, such legislation has been repeatedly proposed but never implemented.


NEW YORK 

     New York has a particular statute, Truth in Travel Act, which was specifically written to require disclosures by sellers of travel that include those offering transportation, accommodations in lodgings such as hotels, motels or motor courts, rental of motor vehicles, or any other services related to travel. Travel services are defined to include investments in time-shares.  Article 10-A §§ 155-159a


PENNSYLVANIA 

     Pennsylvania regulates certain aspects of the travel industry through its various broker statutes. These laws apply to sellers of travel that solicit, offer for sale, or advertise any transportation by a motor carrier. Brokers that act solely within the state of Pennsylvania must post a surety bond in the amount of at least $10,000.


RHODE ISLAND 

     Rhode Island has one of the first states to specifically regulate travel agencies in the United States. Both The Department of Business Regulation and the Rhode Island Travel Commission are empowered to adopt reasonable rules and regulations. Unique to Rhode Island are its seller-of-travel licensing requirements, which apply not only to travel agencies, but also to travel managers and travel agents. Please note however that these licensing requirements apply to in-state businesses and individuals although Rhode Island has specific disclosure requirements for out of state agencies that intend to do business in Rhode Island.


NEVADA 

     Nevada regulates in and out of state agencies and tour operators. It requires payment into a Consumer Recovery Fund (FUND), which is similar to California’s Travel Consumer Restitution Fund (TCRC). However, Nevada’s fund differs from California’s in that both in-state and out-of-state sellers of travel must pay into the fund.


WASHINGTON 

     Washington’s program requires sellers of travel to provide financial security but offers special exemptions if a business meets certain standards and holds consumer funds for a specified length duration.



VIRGINIA 

     Virginia has one of the oldest travel laws on the books and its seller of travel program is very particular about the content and presentation (such as the font size and placement in the brochure) of membership agreements, disclosures and refund policies. Virginia regulates in state and out of state travel clubs.

 Is there a Federal license or registration law for travel agents?
     No.  But the FTC can regulate Brochure and Media advertising.

 What is the Airlines Reporting Corporation, and what does it do?
     The Airlines Reporting Corporation ("ARC"), located in Virginia, requires all agencies that offer airline ticket stock to apply for, and be granted, a 'travel agency appointment' prior to being allowed to sell travel. Until your application for an appointment has been approved, you are not permitted to operate as a travel agency, and ARC will not grant you ticket stock. The Anolik Law Firm can assist you in submitting and expediting an application for ARC appointments, as it has done for thousands of others.

 Are there Federal requirements for advertising air fares?
     Travel Agents are subject to the advertising requirements of Part 399 of the DOT's rules (14 DFR Part 399). Under 14 CFR 399.84 any advertising that states a price for air transportation is considered to be an unfair or deceptive practice in violation of 49 U.S.C. Section 41712 unless the price stated is the entire price to be paid by the customer to the air carrier or ticket agent for each air transportation, tour or tour component. The Department permits taxes and fees imposed by a government on per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges, to be broken out of an advertised fare and stated separately, so long as their nature and amounts appear in the advertisement. (See, e.g., Order 97-11-14) With respect to Internet advertisements, such charges may be noted on a website in a prominent link. However, non-government surcharges and fees, as well as taxes and fees imposed on an advalorem basis, must be included in the advertised fare.

What is the California Travel Consumer Restitution Fund, and who can apply to it?
     The California Travel Consumer Restitution Fund (TCRF) was intended to compensate people who purchased air or sea travel (either alone or in conjunction with other travel services) from a registered California travel agent, and who did not receive what had been promised. If you believe you are eligible to receive compensation from the TCRF, you can obtain claim forms by contacting the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund, at P.O. Box 6001, Larkspur, California 94977-6001, telephone number (415) 461-9734.

How can I protect travel purchases and property while traveling?
     Consumers concerned with possible medical, international incident, or financial supplier defaults or cancellations, with their travel plans are advised to protect their travel investment, peace of mind and business or vacation planning by investing in travel protection, such as that offered by Vacation Protection Services to assist you.  The Consumer Travel Rights Center of www.mytravelrights.com, as well as my travel law offices, have found working with T.R.I.P. , appropriate to professionally recommend as an affordable travel protection plan.

What if the airline bumps me from my flight?
     The Department of Transportation requires each airline to give all involuntarily bumped passengers a written statement of their rights along with an explanation of the carrier’s policy on overbooked flights. Bumped passengers may be entitled to an on-the-spot payment of denied boarding compensation based on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay.  However, the airline may give no compensation if it arranges a substitute flight which arrives within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time. If the domestic airline arranged flight is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time, or on international flights one and four hours, the compensation may be up to a $200.

How can I find a safe cruise?
     Some travel insurance companies maintain a list of cruise lines for which they will not issue coverage. This often because of the company’s financial instability, past safety issues, and service. A cruise that is on this list is likely to be a higher risk cruise.

How can I contact ARTA?
     Association of Retail Travel Agents                 
     c/o TravelDestinations, Inc.,
     4320 N. Miller Road
     Scottsdale, AZ  85251
     tel: (859) 269-9739
     email: artalexhdq@aol.com
     web: www.artaonline.com

To learn more about ARTA click here.
 Interested in getting involved with the selling of travel?
Talk to current travel agents to get their opinion
Contact travel agent associations to see what kind of support is available
Read the trade magazines to see what the current issues are

 Do you have a problem that might require legal assistance?
Make sure all of your documents relating to the problem are gathered together before seeking legal counsel
Write out a chronology of events leading up to the problem
Mark all documents that are prepared for consultation with an attorney, "Privileged Attorney-Client Communication" for future protection.

Does the Anolik Law Corporation know of travel agencies for sale?
     Yes. We have appraised and represented the buyers or sellers of over 2,000 agencies, hotels and tour operators, and we maintain a current inventory of agencies and travel suppliers that will consider being acquired.  For a partial listing of our clients click here.

 How can I obtain a list of what is for sale?
     Due to the confidentiality of some of our clients/agencies, we must speak with you individually to both qualify inquiries and determine if there may be a conflict of interest.

 Is there an initial charge to receive or give sales information to the Anolik Law Corporation regarding buying or selling an agency?
     No. Before you, the consumer/client, incurs any legal expense, the Anolik Law Firm must determine whether we can be of assistance to you. Once that is determined, and we reach a mutual understanding, Mr. Anolik or one of his associates will explain what type of hourly or contingent fees and costs would apply.