Travel agencies placed under special supervision: Collateral for securing consumers’ payments must be sufficient

This year, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) and the Regional State Administrative Agencies have placed small and medium-sized package tour operators under intense scrutiny. The authorities are paying particular attention to whether the securities lodged as collateral against advance payments made by customers are sufficient. Last year, inspections revealed 10 travel agencies whose securities were insufficient.

Package tour operators must be listed in the FCCA’s register of package travel agencies. If a tour operator collects payments from customers before they travel, it must place a security with the FCCA. This security safeguards the advance payments made by consumers in the event that the operator goes bankrupt and the tour is cancelled. If the company only invoices customers after the tour, the obligation to place a security does not apply as a rule.

A supervision project carried out by the FCCA and the Regional State Administrative Agencies in 2014 revealed that in 10 out of the 51 companies inspected, the security lodged was insufficient. The securities of the said companies have since been increased or they have been placed under closer supervision. With respect to two companies, a smaller security would have been sufficient, and their securities have since been reduced. Furthermore, a few companies were instructed that a company that has lodged a security must have an auditor that meets the legal requirements and that the company’s accounting must be arranged in accordance with the Package Travel Act.

Regional State Administrative Agency inspectors will go through the list of small and medium-sized companies in the FCCA’s register of package travel agencies and visit them as far as possible. Some of the companies inspected last year will be re-inspected this year. Information on the results of the supervisory campaign will be provided in the spring of 2016.