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ABTA seems to make no attempt to police the practice of travel agents demanding payments in advance of the schedule required by third party tour operators, even though it is aware that this is happening and is in breach of tour operator agreements (and also Thomas Cook's own standard terms which contain a contradiction/ambiguity in respect of the treatment of pipeline money). It claims that early payments by clients are covered by the credit arrangements between tour operator and travel agent and relies upon some of the murkier aspects of agency law to absolve itself of any responsibility. A plain reading would suggest that unless the tour operator is formally advised that the agent intends to collect monies from clients in advance of its payment terms, those monies cannot possibly fall within the ambit of the credit agreement.
If a travel agent demands payment 14 weeks prior to departure when the tour operator only requires payment 6 weeks prior to departure (without advising the tour operator that it intends to do that), there is surely an arguable case that the demand from the travel agent is not a part of the contract between client and tour operator but some sort of separate contract between travel agent and client (perhaps reward in lieu of a fee for their advice).
Though many third party tour operators will have suspected there was some dodgy dealing going on, few of them will have had certain knowledge and many will have comforted themselves with the thought that ABTA would have been enforcing its own Code of Conduct.
Surely, ABTA bears some responsibility here?