Travel Republic director Kane Pirie appeared in court today at the start of a summary trial on charges that he and the online retailer have systematically breached the ATOL Regulations.
The charges brought by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) allege Pirie and Travel Republic operated in such a way as to sell package holidays without either the necessary ATOL or as the agent of an ATOL holder.
Counsel for the CAA Ian Croxford told Stratford Magistrates Court: “We will show there were packages sold and inadequate information was given to consumers.”
Croxford said: “Travel Republic took advice on the law, and elected to trade in a manner it did. It has been aware throughout, and certainly since September 2007, that the authority [the CAA] did not accept the trader was operating within the regulations.”
He argued consumers had lost the financial protection they would otherwise have had under the ATOL scheme.
“We say Travel Republic does organise packages, because it does offer more than one component of a holiday,” said Croxford.
He told the court: “Travel Republic does not have the facility to offer every flight leaving the UK, or every hotel available in every destination, or a transfer by every taxi available; it enters into contracts with suppliers, and offers a broad selection of options from what is, in effect, an electronic brochure.”
Holiday components are then selected by the consumer “from the listed components on offer”.
Croxford took the court through the European Package Travel Directive, the UK Package Travel Regulations and the Court of Appeal judgment in the case of ABTA and the CAA, and said: “Travel Republic was clearly selling packages.”
The CAA has dropped two of the 40 charges against Pirie and the company, as one consumer witness will not be attending the trial.