Compliance Mechanisms and Penalties
To ensure high standards are maintained and monitored, the Act requires that inbound tour operators whose primary business is selling travel packages overseas cannot carry on business unless registered. A fine of 200 penalty units applies to contravention of this requirement.
Because the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 provides that each penalty unit is worth $110, the maximum fine for failing to register is $22,000. If a corporation fails to register, the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 provides that the penalty is five times the amount for an individual. Therefore, the maximum fine for corporations who fail to register is $110,000.
An inbound tour operator or tour guide who is found to have contravened the prohibition on unconscionable conduct may be subject to civil penalties or compensation orders. The penalty that can be ordered is up to the limit of the District Courts civil jurisdiction (currently $250,000), and if action is taken in the Commercial and Consumer Tribunal, a penalty of 200 penalty units ($22,000) or compensation up to the limit of the Magistrates Court Civil jurisdiction (currently $50,000) can be ordered.
The Act provides that when deciding the amount an inbound tour operator or tour guide may be ordered to pay by way of penalty, the District Court or the Tribunal may consider certain matters including the following:
- the inbound tour operators or tour guides conduct before and after the contravention;
- the financial loss caused; and
- action taken to remedy the situation.
In addition to any penalty for the offence, the court may, if the offender is a registered inbound tour operator, make an order:
- suspending the registration for a stated period;
- cancelling registration; or
- imposing, amending or revoking conditions on registration.
The court may also order the inbound tour operator, whether registered or not, or the tour guide pay compensation to a person who has suffered financial loss because of their conduct relating to the offence.
Alternatively, disciplinary proceedings can be taken against an inbound tour operator who contravenes the Act. The Act clearly spells out that a registered or unregistered inbound tour operator or tour guide cannot be both prosecuted for an offence against the Act and dealt with by way of disciplinary proceedings for the one contravention.
The Commissioner for Fair Trading may also seek an undertaking from an inbound tour operator or tour guide not to continue or repeat an act or omission the Commissioner believes contravenes the Act.
The mandatory Code of Conduct for Inbound Tour Operators and the Act and Regulation under the Act include a number of offences punishable by maximum fines of 200 penalty units. These offences include, for example:
- failing to keep appropriate records, including itineraries and quotations;
- failing to have a written policy about dispute resolution processes; and
- charging tourists for goods or services, such as entry to a beach, available free to the
Review or Appeal Mechanisms
Appeals are possible under the Act.