The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was accused of taking “manifestly disproportionate” action against Travel Republic and its managing director Kane Pirie as the case was summed up on October 27.
Hugo Keith QC, representing Pirie, told Stratford Magistrates Court that the CAA had brought the prosecution because it wants a “test case” that would clarify the currently “grey area” around which companies must hold an ATOL licence.
Keith said: “If this is a test case, then it emphasises the disproportionate manner in which this case has been brought against Pirie. It leads me to ask why all three directors were not prosecuted. If this case had been brought properly, all three directors should have stood together.”
Travel Republic and Pirie are each charged with 19 counts of breaching ATOL regulations in a case that began on October 12. They are accused of offering flights and accommodation in combination, and thereby selling unlicensed package holidays.
Keith added: “There has been a [lot] of confusion around the ATOL regulations. The travel industry has changed beyond recognition [since they were introduced] and the CAA is trying to wrap the regulations around situations where they may not apply.”
Prosecution counsel Ian Croxford QC refuted Travel Republic lawyer Nicholas Purnell’s claim that the ATOL regulations are “antiquated, outdated and impotent”.
He said Travel Republic was aware that it was selling packages.
Croxford said: “Travel Republic consistently offered a ‘holiday’ or ‘holidays’. It is clear that consumers and Travel Republic expected this to refer to a flight and a place to stay. The customer was asked to pay an inclusive price. Customers did not agree to pay for any one component separately to another.”
He said later: “Pirie consented to the sale of holidays in this fashion.”
However, Purnell argued that buying separate components together does not necessarily constitute a package. “It is only a package when the price of one element is dependent on, or affected by, the price of another component. This is the case in a Thomas Cook or Saga holiday.
“Travel Republic is transparent about the cost of each element. Travel Republic pioneered this transparency, and that has made it market leader.”
Judge Nicholas Evans will deliver his verdict on November 10.