The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) has filed an antitrust complaint against IATA for abuse of a dominant position.
The complaint, lodged with the European competition authority (DGComp), requests the European Commission investigate “infringements of competition rules” by IATA.
The complaint says airlines have become direct competitors of agents for ticket distribution and the commercial relationship no longer has anything to do with the former agent-principal relationship.
A statement says: “Unchanged however is that airlines impose very strict, unilateral and disproportionate contractual constraints on travel agents for the distribution of tickets, namely through the IATA Passenger Agency Programme (PAP).
"The PAP is still entirely construed around traditional agent-principal principles. The Passenger Sales Agency Agreement, which every IATA accredited agent has to sign, was drafted 40 years ago and is no longer in line with the economic reality.”
ECTAA goes on to say that agents have no say in the decision making process and that major changes have recently been made through the introduction of NewGen ISS, IATA's settlement system which is currently being rolled out.
The association highlights the introduction of “a cap on agents’ sales forcing agents to pre-finance sales once a certain threshold has been reached as well as providing higher and more frequent financial guarantees.”
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The complaint is supported by the European Travel and Technology Services Association (ETTSA), which says the filing is aligned to its own complaint against airline discriminatory practices, and in particular Lufthansa, from December 2018.
ETTSA secretary general Emmanual Mounier says: “ECTAA’s action is yet another proof of the substantial unfair competition and discriminatory practices originated by large airlines’ abuse of dominant position which have not yet been properly addressed by the competent EU authorities.”
A statement from IATA says it believes the complaint is “without merit," adding: "We look forward to discussing it with DG Comp and ECTAA."
It adds that NewGen IATA Settlement Systems, which aims transform the current ISS, is now rolled out in 50 markets, including some in Europe.