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THE Singapore Trade and Industry Ministry (MTI) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) are seeking public feedback on proposed changes to the Travel Agents Act and Regulations.
These changes include additional measures against industry malpractices and enhanced investigative and enforcement powers.
To protect consumers, the government is looking at cutting down the period given to travel agents to explain themselves to retain their licence, from 21 days to 14 days, to allow timelier enforcement actions.
It is also looking at additional licensing conditions for travel insurance to give consumers the option to buy insurance that covers insolvency of travel agencies.
To further protect consumers, existing safeguards will be expanded for changes to tours, inaccurate and erroneous advertisements, settlement of disputes, and cancellation of bookings.
STB will be empowered to gather evidence from relevant third parties when investigating travel agents and unlicensed individuals for errant behaviour. The maximum fine for unlicensed travel agent activities will also be raised to S$25,000 from S$10,000, while the maximum composition sum for compoundable offences will be raised to S$5,000 or half of the maximum fine prescribed, whichever is the lower (see amendment note).
But to encourage innovation, the government also plans to remove some regulatory requirements. To facilitate a pro-business environment, the government is proposing a tiered licensing regime and reducing compliance costs.
The public consultation exercise will run between Wednesday and July 12.
The Travel Agents Act (TAA) was last amended in 1993, while the Travel Agents Regulations (TAR) was last changed in 2007.
Amendment note: An earlier version of this article stated that the maximum composition sum for compoundable offences will be doubled to S$20,000. MTI has since clarified the error in its press release. It said the maximum composition sum for compoundable offences will be raised to S$5,000 or half of the maximum fine prescribed, whichever is the lower.