It is worth having a trawl through the definitions in the Package Travel Regulations to get clarity on the legislation first hand.
You are providing packages and this obliges you to provide consumers with protection. However ... it may be that given the fact that you are pre-paying all elements you will be able to demonstrate that you are giving your guests sufficient security.
If in doubt give a lawyer a ring. MBLaw or TravLaw are specialists who will be able to quickly help and costs shouldn't be steep.I wouldn't bother asking your local trading standards bod - the odds of an informed response are slim/none.
As Chris points out, you are providing a package and as such, you will need to provide financial protection to your clients. Unfortunately, pre paying the suppliers is not sufficient as there will still be a gap between you receiving the money and paying it onto your suppliers.
Travel insurance is also insufficient as most insurances do not cover against insolvency.
In order to comply, there are a number of options open to you. These include ABTA, ABTOT, TTA, Protected Travel Services or insurance. Which one is best for you will really depend on the number of passengers you send away each year.
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My understanding of bonding, IPP etc is it is there to protect clients and their money WHILST they are abroad, to protect against insolvency/repatriation if needed. Re. the gap you mention, if people hand money over to me for a service, weeks before that service occurs and I go bust/''steal their money'', surely that is just a courts issue/theft and nothing to do with package travel regulations? Surely I just need some sort of cover to monitor the hand over of cash?
In essence, I cannot go bust. People give me money, I pay for the suppliers, ''keep the change'' so to speak. The trip in essence would go ahead even if my company went under. I know for a fact that ABTA etc is not for me due to the company size and the correct thing for me would be a trust fund, but as I mentioned a trust fund free money AFTER a trip has happened, and I need the money upfront to provide the trip. Catch 22? I cannot afford the TTA etc as self funded the company from scratch/only just started and not earning the sort of money to afford such expensive cover.
Also , Matt, no offense, but it seems like you are on here to generate business (cant blame you for that), so will need to take what you say with a pinch of salt until I get more replies/a broad range of opinions for me to digest. By all means, if all replies point to what you say, I'd be more than happy to discuss my issue with you in detail.
Matt is one of the LEADING experts in this area..... whether as a side product of writing useful (free) replies on these forums he generates business is completely not the point! - I would listen very very carefully to what he writes...........
I stand by what I wrote but thanks all the same for your pointer.
Just want to know if I'm likely to be banged up/fined if I continue trading.
Thanks Matt, really helpful advice.
I approached the bank with whom I do my business banking re. this issue and they have offered me a Client Deposit Account. Do you know if this complies with the Package Travel Regulations?
Matt would be better placed than me to answer but almost certainly not unless you are not a signatory on the account and funds only get transfered across to you when a guest has compeleted their holiday.