By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After more than twelve years of negotiations and with the 2014 World Cup fast approaching, bill 5.120/01, a measure that would change the rules and regulations governing the Brazilian travel agency industry, was approved by Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday, April 22 and currently awaits final approval or veto from President Dilma Rousseff.

Travel Agency Bill Awaits Approval, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
If bill 5.120/01 becomes law, customers will be responsible for any financial setbacks suffered due to problems with services that are part of travel packages, including third party services by hotels and airline carriers, photo by Fernando Frazão/ABr.

A project created by the Brazilian Association of Travel Agencies (ABAV), the bill contains 28 items that will, if approved, change agencies’ relationships with and responsibilities to customers. One section of the bill states that if delivery of services as part of travel packages, including third party services provided by hotels, airline carriers, city tours and other services included in packages sold by agencies, prove problematic to customers, the cost of resolving said problems will fall on the customer.

The customers will retain the right to take the matter to court to claim restitution for any financial losses, but it will be up to the customer to prove that any losses incurred were due to negligent actions by the agency in question. That would be a hard case to make, experts believe.

“If the bill becomes law, this will be one of the biggest setbacks that Brazilian consumers will take to their rights in recent years,” Ricardo Morishita, professor of Consumer Law at FGV-Rio told O Globo. “In practice, there will be a risk transferred to the client. The claim that he can go to court is correct, but innocuous, since it is up to him to prove the inconvenience suffered was due the agency, which is a difficult thing to prove. Moreover, the project contravenes the Consumer Protection Code (CDC) and the Constitution itself, in Article 5, paragraph 32, it states that it is the responsibility of the state to promote consumer protection.”

However, some in the travel agency sector argue that the current situation has lead to financial losses, “It’s terrible, because any problem that happens during [customer travel], whether I’m involved or not, I’m responsible for it,” president of Abav-RS, Danilo Kehl Martins told Jornal do Comércio.

“Currently, the CDC is blaming everyone who is part of the process, even if the problem occurred within an airport, for example, but we must consider that the tour agent holds no power over an airline, or on immigration personnel,” added Fabian Saraiva, administrative and financial director of travel agency Uneworld.

The deadline for approval or veto by President Rousseff is May 13th, fifteen days from the date final draft of the bill was received. Rousseff is expected to approve the law.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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