KINGSTON — The Senate has passed the Bill amending The Travel Agency Regulation Act, which will impose harsher penalties on travel agencies operating illegally in Jamaica.
Minister of National Security and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon Dwight Nelson, in piloting the Bill on Thursday (July 28), noted that the amendments reflected changes in the travel service since 1956.
"After this length of time, there have been minimal amendments to the Act, and we are convinced that the time has come to re-examine it and to make it more relevant to the current travel environment," Senator Nelson said.
"We have now to contend with a plethora of illegal travel agencies, and we have had to field complaints from customers who have been fleeced by a number of illegal travel agencies, and so we are seeking to increase the fines and the sanctions imposed for the illegal operations of travel agents," he added.
Under the Act, registered travel agencies must secure a bond, with surety, in the sum of $100,000, which is kept by the registrar of travel agency. This bond will be used to offset claims, in case the entity develops financial difficulties or there are issues concerning refunding or cancellation of tickets.
Currently unregistered travel agents are charged $20 each day they operate illegally or, on summary conviction by a Resident Magistrate's Court, spend a maximum of 12 months in prison. With the amendments, illegal travel agents will be charged a maximum $1 million, or face a maximum custodial sentence of 12 months.
There is also an increase in the penalty for assaulting or obstructing the Registrar of Travel Agencies, or an Inspector of Travel Agencies, in the course of his/her duties or, without reasonable cause, and failing to comply with the requirements of the Registrar of Inspector specified in the Act.
Travel agencies assaulting or obstructing the Registrar of Travel Agencies or an Inspector of Travel Agencies, in the course of his duty, will face fines of $1million or imprisonment or a term not exceeding 12 months, up from $400 or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding six months.
Opposition Senator Sandrea Falconer welcomed the amendments to the Act.
"From time to time they (clients) turn up for their vacation and what they were promised is not what they receive. So we have to ensure that we put teeth in all the regulations and the law, to protect the clients," Senator Falconer said.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday July 19. It was passed in the Senate without any amendments.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter