Travel Republic’s lawyer Peter Stewart has slammed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as “irresponsible” and compared its continued pursuit of the online agency to a “Dickensian saga”.
Speaking at a travel law seminar held by Abta and K&L Gates today, Peter Stewart, a partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse, said:
“The CAA has behaved irresponsibly and not as a regulator should do.” He added later: “A regulator should be fair and reasonable and give proper consideration to economics. It should not conduct vindictive personal crusades.”
The CAA has sought leave from the Supreme Court to appeal a decision by the High Court, and previously a Magistrates’ Court, to find Travel Republic not-guilty of breaching Atol regulations.
Stewart said the failure of CAA consumer protection group deputy director David Moesli to attend the seminar session reflected the CAA’s irresponsible approach. Moesli did attend sessions later in the day.
Stewart said the conflict was one Dickens would be proud of, adding: “I’ll leave it to you decide who is who in this Dickensian saga.”
“The CAA refuses to accept that there are circumstances in which the contemporaneous sale of travel products does not create a package.”
Stewart said the CAA should have begun a consultation in 2004/5 rather than “dragging a dead horse through the courts”.
He predicted that the Supreme Court will not make a decision on whether to give the CAA leave to appeal until the Autumn, and if it accepts the case it would not be heard until April to June 2011.
“The Atol regulations will have been changed before an appeal is heard, so why is this being pursued?” he asked.
The appeal could also be an opportunity for the decision in the Abta/CAA case in 2006 to be overturned or clarified, Stewart added.
Abta won an initial case and an appeal after the CAA issued a guidance note setting out its view of what constitutes a package and should therefore be subject to Atol regulations.
The association objected to this accusing the CAA of making law through edict and challenged the note. Although the case did not clarify once and for all what a package is it did set out the circustances in which packages are created.
The CAA has insisted it is right to pursue the Travel Republic case claiming, win or lose, it will provide clarity for consumers.