Agent liable in ticket scam(1)

16 May 2001

SYDNEY - Concorde International Travel in Australia has urged travel agents to be vigilant against "scam bookings", in which tickets are purchased using credit cards without the holder's consent.

The warning follows a court case in which a Sydney travel agent was held liable for the cost of tickets which it ordered from Concorde's consolidation division, after taking a credit card booking for travel.

When the holders of the cards rejected the charges, the agent withheld payment of more than A$90,000 to Concorde, which had booked and provided the tickets at the agent's request.

In a landmark decision for the travel industry Down Under, the New South Wales District Court ruled last week that the agent, and not Concorde, was liable for the cost of the tickets.

Concorde Group CEO, Martin Cowley, said the incident was both unfortunate and a stark reminder to agents of the need to check thoroughly the authenticity of buyers before processing ticket orders.

Cowley said this particular ticket scam, for travel between West Africa and Europe, was well known in the travel industry, and had been the subject of warnings to travel agents by IATA/BSP, as well as widespread coverage in travel industry media publications, facts which the agent readily admitted. Concorde had also issued warnings.

"On this occasion, a large order was placed with Concorde by a reputable agent, and duly fulfilled by Concorde in good faith," said Cowley.

"I urge agents to be extremely vigilant when taking credit card orders, and to satisfy themselves that those making the bookings have the authority to do so.

"In this case as soon as the agent sought better identification and more reliable contact details, the perpetrators of the scam vanished.

"The court ruling last week has now established clearly that the travel agent, and not the end supplier of tickets, is responsible for checking and ensuring the bona fides of customers before placing orders with providers."

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