Eric Galbraith says customers are suffering from inadequate advice
Biba believes the decision to exempt the sale of bundled travel insurance from FSA regulation has failed, causing consumer detriment.
It's now time for the government to impose statutory regulation on travel agents to ensure consumers are afforded the same protection they receive from professional insurance brokers and intermediaries who are currently regulated by the FSA.
Brokers can provide advice and choice to clients to ensure they are sold a suitable policy and that the customer is aware of any important points like disclosing pre-existing medical conditions.
The recent Which? report shows that the sale of travel insurance by travel agents and tour operators is clearly failing in this important area.
Clearly, it is important to obtain the correct level of cover, but this is not the case with many travel agents' policies, which have blanket terrorism exclusion and high excesses.
When we looked at some recently, the general terrorism exclusions applied to policies sold by Thompson Travel Agents, First Choice Travel Agents, last minute.com and Expedia to name but a few.
As a result, with terrorism rising across the globe, more and more British tourists are not adequately covered for their holidays.
The Treasury consultation document states: "Where policies do exclude cover for acts of terror, these exclusions are adequately signposted." Clearly travel agents need to get their maps out, as this simply isn't being done.
In addition, many travel agents' and tour operators' policies are overpriced, which was also a concern in the recent Which? report.
The Treasury has made a "call for evidence" and Biba is answering that call.
Biba is also conducting a significant independent survey in order to assist in the case for regulation.
I am sure Treasury minister Ed Balls will be as keen as I am to see the results.
Currently, policies sold by agents as part of a holiday package do not allow the client full access to the Finacial Ombudsman Service for dispute resolution in all circumstances. This is an area that must be tidied up by the Treasury.
I appreciate there needs to be a balance with regulation, but when we have consumer detriment in cover, cost and access to dispute resolution, plus an unlevel playing field with the sale of the product, something must be done.
Eric Galbraith is chief executive of Biba