Travel claims rain down on Abta

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The Independent Online
THE arbitration scheme set up for dissatisfied holidaymakers by the Association of British Travel Agents is proving increasingly attractive to consumers.

In the first seven months of this year, it has received as many complaints as in the whole of 1992.

Abta suggests that the use of the arbitration system indicates a change in public attitude. 'People are getting more greedy, and more streetwise,' an Abta spokeswoman said.

The Chartered Institute of Arbiters, which runs the scheme for Abta, contends that the increase was a result of the greater publicity given to the scheme this year, although it still maintains that not enough people know about its existence.

The consumer's complaint is sustained in nearly eight out of 10 cases, though the settlement is often worth less than has been claimed. Abta also adds that the settlements this year have so far been smaller than in previous years.

'Figures paid out are confidential, but claims for pounds 5,000 are often going out at pounds 3,000,' Ms Cain said.

Complaints typically talk of poor accommodation, disturbance caused by construction near to hotels and misleading brochures.

The total number of complaints, including those that do not go to the arbitration scheme, has increased by only 3 per cent - in line with the increased number holidays sold this year. Less than 12 per cent of this year's complaints have so far resulted in requests for arbitration.

Rebecca Evans, at the Consumers' Association's legal department, said: 'People are more ready to assert their rights.

'The bottom dropped out of the travel market this year, more cheaper holidays were sold, and many people were getting something pretty shoddy. There were more cut-price, grotty holidays on the market, and that may explain the lower pay-outs.

'Also, when times are tough, more of the family budget may go on the holiday,' she said, 'so there is more of a sense of grievance.'