Legal Dos and Donts---Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld 2012 Live
This is a series of live posts from Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld 2012. Due to the short time frame from which we hear the sessions to when we publish them, please excuse any errors!
Travel industry attorney, Mark Pestronk presented a quick session at Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld 2012. The sessions was directed towards home based travel agents and the liabilities they need to be aware of.
SITUATION #1: If you are an independent contractor with a host agency are you exempt from getting your own SOT (seller of travel)?
In Washington, in order to be under your host’s seller of travel number, you must sell in the name of the registered Seller of Travel’s company, not in your own name. When you collect and process funds it must be in the name of the registered seller of travel.
For California Seller of Travel (CA SOT#), the requirements are more complicated. You must meet 6 requirements to be exempt from getting your own CA SOT#. It applies not only to California residents but also if you sell to California residents.
The 6 requirements must be met to be EXEMPT:
- Must be under written contract with registered SOT
- Sell only as an individual sole proprietor. Cannot be a corporation, LLC, or partnership.
- Refrain from selling travel, except on behalf of the host.
- You can’t accept client fees
- Refrain from accepting any checks payable to you
- On any checks you have to disclose name, contact information, and CA SOT# of the registered seller of travel.
There were reports in the audience from agents stating both CA and FL has recently been fining agents. Pestronk warned CA will actively patrol internet for improper advertising.
The six states that require a seller of travel number: HI, CA, WA, IA, FL, NV 1.
SITUATION #2: The passenger, your client, confuses your responsibility with the supplier’s responsibilities. Does the law make you responsible for the acts or omissions of suppliers?
Pestronk reports, without a doubt, no you are not responsible for the acts or omissions of suppliers. So, how do you prevail? Have them sign a disclaimer. The disclaimer is merely is stating the law. Pestronk tells the groups that it’s not that it’s going to win a lawsuit (he claims it will), it’s a deterrent against the start of a frivolous lawsuit.
Agents hoping to avoid the mess of a frivolous lawsuit are advised to have clients sign a disclaimer that you are not responsible for the acts or omissions of suppliers.
He also recommends as a second line of defense to frivolous lawsuits to make sure to offer insurance to the client on paper. While it does not need to be signed to be binding, he encourages you to have your clients check the box saying they accept or decline travel insurance as proof the client has seen it.
If a signature is impractical, Pestronk’s gives a third, less desirable option. Direct your clients to your website where they can click on an online disclaimer.
Last word of advice is to, if possible, have clients sign a disclaimer before they put money down.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Please read the following summary of Mr. Pestronk’s session with that understanding as well as the fact that I am live blogging (of sorts) and there may be errors. Any questions on your travel agency liability should be directed toward an attorney, not me.
Other Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld 2012 Live Blogging
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- Editor's Note: As of July 2015, NV no longer requires a travel agent license. ↩