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Travellers’ Protection Initiative

New National “Travellers’ Protection Initiative” Demands Government Protection for Airline Passengers

Group says Bill C-44 must be strengthened

TORONTO, June 2, 2005—A new Canada-wide alliance was announced today bringing together like-minded consumer protection and business groups to demand greater federal government protection for Canadian airline passengers. The initiative comes in the wake of the recent failure of discount airline Jetsgo that left thousands of passengers stranded without refunds or other compensation, and as Bill C-44, proposed by the government in April, is headed toward 2nd Reading. The Bill, proposing minor amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, does not go nearly far enough to provide real protection for consumers, according to the group.

The Travellers’ Protection Initiative is comprised of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), and Quebec-based Option consommateurs. They are joined by members of the Canadian Association of Airline Passengers (CAAP), including the Consumers Association of Canada (Saskatchewan), Transport 2000, Canadian Federation of Students, Consumers Council of Canada, Air Passenger Safety Group, Manitoba Society of Seniors, Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations, and Rural Dignity of Canada.

The Travellers’ Protection Initiative represents a broad range of consumer and industry groups from across the country, each of which has been individually campaigning for change at the federal level. Speaking with one voice, the group’s objective is to push the government to strengthen the inadequate passenger protections contained in Bill C-44.

“As we gear up for a busy season of summer vacation travel, the painful memory lingers of the Canadian passengers who were left high and dry when Jetsgo stopped flying at the height of March break travel,” said Michael Janigan, Executive Director of PIAC. “As Bill C-44 stands now, there’s nothing to prevent travellers from being victimized again should another airline fail. If this Bill passes as is, Canadians will be as vulnerable in the future as they were when Jetsgo collapsed.”

The government’s proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act as itemized in Bill C-44, confirm the elimination of the Airline Complaints Commissioner’s position and call for the airlines to develop their own rules for full price disclosure in advertising. There is no mention of consumer protection for advance ticket sales or financial monitoring safeguards for airlines. The group feels that these amendments don’t go nearly far enough and want the government to re-write the Bill to implement the appropriate measures that will protect Canadians.

“Just when it becomes obvious to everyone that we need much greater consumer protection measures, the government proposes measures that move us further in the opposite direction,” said Mr. Janigan. “They’re eliminating the Airline Complaints Commissioner’s position and their proposal in Bill C-44 gives the airlines the luxury of policing themselves in areas like full price disclosure in airline advertising and best financial management practices. Time and again, we’ve seen that the airlines are simply not responsive. How many times do we suffer a Jetsgo before the government understands its role?”

The group has six key areas of concern:

  • Greater financial monitoring and disclosure to the public;
  • Protection for advance ticket purchases;
  • Full price disclosure in advertising across the board;
  • Reinstatement and strengthening of the position of Airline Complaints Commissioner;
  • A federal compensation fund for when airlines fail;
  • A program within Transport Canada to collect and publish information on airline service performance in order to better inform consumers about their choices and promote fair competition among airlines.

“We can’t stress enough, the importance of creating an atmosphere of rigorous scrutiny, openness and fairness in this industry, with a view always, to the public good,” said Jannick Desforges of Option consommateurs. “We call on Minister Lapierre and Members of Parliament to hear us out on these issues and respond in good faith. The government should not be putting airlines first – it should be putting passengers first.”

“In what other industry does the customer finance the company without any knowledge of the company’s financial health?” asked TICO CEO, Michael Pepper. “That’s precisely what happens with unsecured advance ticket sales. We understand that the government is not in the airline business, but it is in the business of protecting Canadian citizens, and in this area it is failing all of us. It has the obligation to demand that airlines have the financial wherewithal to serve passengers. That’s a very basic requirement.”

According to Marc-André Charlebois, President and CEO of ACTA, “The government has been reluctant to get involved in this area and appears to be operating with the best interests of the airlines, not those of consumers, in mind. This is unacceptable and we know Canadians will not sit quietly while new airlines go into business, completely immune from appropriate consumer safeguards, when there are simple solutions that will have far-reaching impact.”

The Travellers’ Protection Initiative wants its 6-point plan to be enshrined in legislation and plans to take its case to MPs and the Minister of Transport before the Bill goes further.

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For more information, please contact:

Catherine Davey
catherinedavey@mailbotz.com
416-599-6262

Membership

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) is a not-for-profit corporation wholly-financed by Ontario-registered travel agents and wholesalers. It administers the Travel Industry Act and the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund. The Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund is wholly-financed by the industry to protect consumers who do not receive the travel services for which they paid due to the insolvency or bankruptcy of an Ontario-registered travel agent or travel wholesaler, or due to the cessation of an end supplier airline or cruise line. The Fund only covers consumers who have booked through an Ontario-registered travel agent. TICO may be contacted at (905) 624-6241 or 1-888-451-TICO orwww.tico.on.ca , email tico@tico.on.ca

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is a national non-profit organization working to advance the interests of individuals and groups who are generally unrepresented, or under-represented, in issues of major public concern. PIAC focuses primarily on consumer issues concerning telecommunications, travel, energy, privacy, the information highway, electronic commerce, financial services, broadcasting, and competition law. PIAC undertakes legal and research services on behalf of consumers and seeks to ensure that the public interest is served, and not neglected, by decision- makers in government and the private sector, when decisions are made about consumer issues. PIAC may be contacted at (613) 562-4002 or www.piac.ca , email piac@piac.ca

Option consommateurs is dedicated to defending and promoting the interests of consumers, primarily those with low incomes. To that end, it is active in various industry sectors through its credit counselling, legal, press, and research and advocacy divisions. The association team is made up of about twenty individuals working in a variety of professions such as law, finance, journalism, and research. Option consommateurs directly reaches up to 10,000 consumers annually, and conducts more than 400 media interviews. In addition to sitting on numerous task forces and taking part in various consultations, the association team publishes research reports, memoranda, practical guides and news articles. Option consommateurs may be contacted at (514) 598-7288, 1-888-412-1313 www.option-consommateurs.org

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) is a national trade association representing the retail travel sector of Canada’s tourism industry. ACTA is an industry-led, non profit, membership-based organization. Its members include retail travel agencies and suppliers such as tour operators, travel wholesalers, airlines, hotels, destination marketing organizations, cruise and rail lines, and automobile rental companies. ACTA represents the interests of Canadian travellers through approximately 3,000 members employing 14,000 travel professionals. ACTA may be contacted at: (613) 237-3657 or www.acta.ca

The Canadian Association of Airline Passengers (CAAP) is a coalition of consumer organizations formed in 1999 to respond to the pending restructuring of the Canadian airline industry, and to advocate policy and regulatory requirements which are fundamental to protect passengers’ rights. PIAC and Option Consommateurs are both founding members of CAAP. Other members of CAAP who have lent their voice to the Travellers’ Protection Initiative include:

Air Passenger Safety Group 1-416-534-4008 Jim Goss: pres@jgoss.com

Consumers Association of Canada Saskatchewan 1-306-242-4909 Annemarie Buchmann-Gerber: office.cacsk@sasktel.net

Canadian Federation of Students 1-613-232-7394

Consumers Council of Canada
The Consumers Council of Canada is an independent non-profit consumer organization whose vision is an efficient, equitable and effective marketplace for consumers. The Council works collaboratively with consumers, business and government in support of consumers’ rights and responsibilities to provide a consumer perspective and to find solutions to marketplace problems. Through consumer representation, research, education and service the Council addresses issues that affect and influence the daily lives of consumers. The Council is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and has an Advisory Committee to provide marketplace perspective and is funded through its project work, its memberships and donations. The Council operates the Public Interest Network (PIN) a volunteer network of community-involved thought leaders who respond to issues and inform the Council. The Consumers Council of Canada Foundation, a registered charity, supports the research and education efforts of the Council. Contact the Council at 416-961-3487,www.consumerscouncil.com or mail@consumerscouncil.com

Canadian Federation of Students 1-613-232-7394 Angela Regnier: dchair@cfs-fcee.ca

Manitoba Society of Seniors 1-204-985-8540 Byron Williams: bywil@legalaid.mb.ca

Ontario Society of Senior Citizens’ Organizations 1-416-785-8570 Morris Jesion: ocsco@web.net

Rural Dignity of Canada 1-418-645-2715 Cynthia Patterson: ruraldignity@globetrotter.qc.ca

Transport 2000 Canada 1-819-827-0157 Harry Gow: hwgow@uottawa.ca

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