If you discover that you are unable to resolve the complaint directly with the tour operator, you have the option to present your case under the ABTA Arbitration Scheme.
Full details of the ABTA Arbitration scheme can be found on their website.
The scheme has an 18 month limitation period in which to bring a claim and can only be started once you have reached ‘deadlock’ with your Travel Company.
You should also be aware of the fact that if you disagree with the decision, you are bound by Arbitration and cannot progress it elsewhere except through an appeal through the scheme or if you believe that the Arbitration was flawed, through the High Court on a Judicial Review.
Some holidaymakers have alleged in the past that the process was unfair and did not reflect their right to a fair hearing as set out in Article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights! In those cases, holidaymakers have needed legal assistance!
Use of this scheme should be considered carefully.
If you lose your case you will be liable for the costs of the tour operator, and you will be bound by the arbitrator’s decision and will not be able to take your case into a court or other forum.
This is particularly important in personal injury cases. The rules of arbitration are essentially set up to deal with contractual claims. The rules are clear; they are not designed to deal with a claim that is essentially a claim for personal injury. The rules however make the provision that where the bulk of the claim is contractual, it can consider an element of personal injury or illness, but it is stressed such an element must not form the main bulk of the claim.
Contractual claims, if properly presented, can be satisfactorily settled through the Arbitration process, but we would always caution use of such a scheme without seeking independent guidance first.
Another scheme being offered by ABTA is a Mediation Scheme for Holiday Illness Complaints; we are not aware of many Consumers who have used this process and would caution against use of any Mediation Scheme without seeking Independent Guidance first!