TMCs propose changes to DOT's ticket refund rule

Six of the largest travel management companies have called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to alter its proposed rule around airline ticket refunds and consumer protections.

The TMCs noted that as currently written, the proposed rule “would create misplaced liability and uncertainty for travel management businesses where they have no control,” according to a letter the group sent Friday to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

  • Related: ASTA tells DOT that refund rule just won’t fly

The Travel Management Coalition — composed of Internova, American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel, CWT, CTM North America and Direct Travel — is particularly concerned with having TMCs, as ticket agents, be responsible for a customer’s refund, credit or voucher under the rule “when it is the airline that is the party determining flight schedules, [and] evaluating and issuing refunds, credits or voucher requests.”

The coalition recommended three changes to the current proposed rule, which DOT announced in August. First is that ticket agents should not be liable for refunds when the merchant of record is the airline, “which is the case in nearly all transactions.” 

For the “rare” times where the TMC is the merchant of record, the coalition also recommends that the ticket agent is not required to provide a refund to the customer until the airline has refunded the cost of the ticket to the agent.

Third, the group wants airlines to “have the sole responsibility” to evaluate, decide and communicate to the ticket agent and customer “in a clear and timely way,” whether a customer is eligible for a refund, ticket or voucher “in any circumstance posed in the rule, whether it relates to a cancelled or changed flight, or a health-related reason requested by the consumer.”

With the current “loose guardrails” around when a customer is eligible for a credit or voucher due to a health-related circumstance, it could “significantly increase” assistance time for these requests “and introduce uncertainty if airlines are not making decisions and clearly communicating those decisions to the ticket agent and customer in a timely way,” according to the letter.

Further, the group provided nearly a dozen additional comments detailing specifics around the three key recommendations, such as wanting the proposed rule to apply only to those transactions that have a point of sale in the United States, that a refund authorized by an airline should be made to the original form of payment, and recommending against requiring airlines or ticket agents to issue a non-expiring credit or voucher as this “creates financial uncertainty for businesses.”

The extended comments period for the proposed rule closed on Friday, Dec. 16.

Source: Business Travel News

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