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There is no retail price maintenance. Nor should there be. If there was, that is when consumers really would be disadvantaged.
Airlines are not permitted to tell an agent what end price it must sell to the consumer. They simply set how much money is to be remitted to them for the ticket sold
Travel is like any other product you buy. The price can vary by retailer.
Travel agents are permitted to mark-up the price of tickets or add booking fees if they wish. Or discount them if they want. Why not? Besides very few airlines pay commissions these days. So how else does the agent earn money on a sale.?Besides, they are delivering a value added service to a customer that has a cost and this cost must be recovered somehow. The customer should expect this.
Since when do you go in to dress shop or a furniture shop or a supermarket and expect the retailer to sell you the product at their cost price? You don't. But trouble is that travel retailing existed in a nefarious world for about 60 years far removed from the normal retail world.
A travel agent (except in a miniscule number of instances) does not even have to pre-purchase their stock or inventory to sell and many have a very cavalier attitude to an airline's inventory.
A travel agent should be permitted to sell a ticket for whatever the market can demand.
These days transparency is far greater than say 5, 10, 15 years ago when travel agents duped people left, right and centre, and in the realm of net fares most travellers had a ticket that displayed a price that had no relevance to what they actually paid. In fact it usually had a ticket with a price showing a rate much higher than what the traveller actually paid.
At least these days the traveller will have a ticket (e-ticket itinerary/receipt) showing the actual price of the ticket and the amount remitted to the airline by the agent, including any taxes fees or charges that must be collected by the airline as part of the inclusive ticket price (as required by law).
Any astute person is then able to compare the price on the air travel documents with what they paid.
Holding out airline's inventory is an absolute no no. (what did I say above about cavalier attitudes to inventory?)
This is an abuse by agents. Airlines should clamp down on this sort of activity but most airlines are too gutless to do it with agents. They simply rely on flight firming robotics for enforcement of ticketing time limits and auto cancellations of unticketedbookings, but most legacy airlines are in the dark ages here also. Only the well run ones do it. And agents generally hate them for it.
And e-ticket has removed the age-old trick of the days of paper tickets of entering false ticket numbers into the booking to falsely show that the booking was ticketed.
And I am only touching the surface here of the shonks that agents got up to. They were masters of delusion and misleading and deceptive conduct.
Many still are, but no where on the scale of in the days of prolific nett fares sales and dry IT fares and old fashioned ticketing rules and processes, before the introduction of e-ticketing, market fare disclosure on tickets and the airlines' ticket time limit enforcement robotics.
And many airlines still overlook abusive practices by travel agents and are badly run, or weak or their agency sales staff incompetent or a combination of the lot.
BUT AGENTS SHOULD BE STILL FREE TO SET THE SELLING PRICE OF A TICKET TO WHATEVER THE MARKET WILL STAND, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER RETAIL PRODUCT. BESIDES, OFTEN BECAUSE OF COMPETITION, IT IS IN THE CUSTOMER'S FAVOUR AND THEY GET A CHEAPER PRICE.
BUT, BUYER BEWARE.
TRAVEL RETAILING HAS ALWAYS HAD ITS RENEGADES. AND QUESTIONABLE PRACTICES 'USED TO" APPLY TO NEARLY ALL TRAVEL RETAILERS IN THE PAST. IT IS FAR LESS PREVALENT TODAY, PRIMARILY BECAUSE OF THE "INTERNET OF THINGS".
THE NEXT GROUP OF GENUINE DECEIVERS TO BE HIT ARE THE TOUR WHOLESALERS. ALREADY HAPPENING BECAUSE OF UNBUNDLING BY BOTH AIRLINES AND ACCOMMODATION PROVIDERS. ONCE AGAIN THE "INTERNET OF THINGS". WHY USE THEIR MEASLY ARRAY OF BULK PRODUCT WHEN YOU CAN GO ONLINE TO BUY FROM A MASSIVE ARRAY OF OPTIONS?
LIKE EVERY THING. THINGS ARE EVOLVING AND CHANGING RAPIDLY. TRAVEL IS NOT IMMUNE TO THIS. BUT SOME PEOPLE ARE IN DENIAL
Of course there has to be a free market on pricing. The danger for any retailer is to be accused of unfair, or dodgy practice, in an age of instant information, when consumers have all the power.
Our research shows that many older people prefer to use a travel agent - they like the personal contact and enjoy dealing with a human being they can trust rather than a machine. Sad to read that they are allegedly being exploited in this (hopefully isolated) incident. Older people should be valued - they are loyal customers who will recommend good service and are very influential.
I just hope that the programme doesn't tar all agents with the same brush, and makes it clear that this is just an investigation of Flight Centre.