Move flight complaints to another agency

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 April 2023: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) supports the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Cost of Living that stated the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), rather than the Consumer Claims Tribunal, should investigate flight grievances.

The ministry recently noted that complaints relating to flight services should be reported to MAVCOM. According to Section 99(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act 2015 (Act A1498), which was updated by Section 99(1) (ca), any issue relating to airline services is not within the tribunal’s jurisdiction as stated on 1 March 2016.

MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang urges the Consumer Claims Tribunal to dismiss claims regarding flight tickets included in travel packages to be consistent with the ministry’s position.

“Consumers should pursue charges against airlines for failures to provide refunds and related services rather than holding travel agents liable. Travel agents should not become victims of circumstance,” he added.

Travel packages sold by travel agents are classified as services and are subject to the Consumer Protection Act 1999 [Act 599], which necessarily includes airline services. However, since 2016, MAVCOM has administered airline services and complaints.

“This has created difficulties for our industry players when dealing with these problems, notably airline-related issues involving unsatisfied customers who continue to file claims with the Consumer Tribunal for only MYR5 each. How can we defend ourselves while the airlines are subject to a different set of rules?” Tan asks.

This “fundamental flaw” becomes apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic and post-pandemic period, when the Consumer Claims Tribunal compels travel companies to reimburse tour fares to consumers. Still, airlines use credit payback methods to travel agencies. Such rulings have resulted in severe financial ramifications for travel agencies, including closing their business.

“In the interest of fairness, we suggest that the Consumer Claims Tribunal analyse its past and pending cases to reflect the present business situation. Moving ahead, we expect the Consumer Claims Tribunal to transfer consumer and travel agency issues involving flight tickets to MAVCOM and separate these tour packages from the merchant category,” said Tan.

“Finally, the most recent scenario demonstrated the 4th Schedule of the Tourism Industry Act 1992 is now irrelevant and outdated. We have reached a point of no return since this issue has been highlighted multiple times to the Federal Ministers of Tourism over the years without any positive results. Ministers ask the Secretary General of the Tourism Ministry to table the necessary amendments, but nothing comes of it.” lamented Tan.