The Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Singapore Tourism Board are asking for public feedback regarding the proposed amendments to the Travel Agents Act and Regulations.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann said in a media statement that the review of the law is part of the Government's efforts to strengthen the regulatory framework and facilitate a pro-business environment in the travel agents industry. It also eyes to improve consumer protection.
"The majority of our travel agents are professional and conduct their businesses responsibly. But as the travel industry transforms and consumer expectations evolve, we need to update the regulatory framework to safeguard the interests of consumers and also ensure that the business environment allows travel agents to innovate and grow," she furthered.
The proposed amendments include additional measures against malpractices in order to protect consumers from lawbreaking travel agents. Changes also include enhancing investigative and enforcement powers.
The Singapore Government is looking to slash "show cause" period given to travel agents to explain themselves in order to retain their licenses, from 21 days previously to 14. MTI said in a statement that this allows timelier enforcement actions.
More so, the amendments want to expand existing safeguard for changes to tours, as well as inaccurate advertisements, settlement of disputes, and cancellation of bookings.
"This will expand the safeguards beyond just sightseeing and shopping tours, as is currently the case, to also ensure consumers' interest across all regulated travel agent activities," MTI explained.
Meanwhile, the proposed changes aim to empower STB in gathering evidence from relevant third parties during an investigation. The maximum fine for unlicensed travel agent activities will be raised from $10,000 to $25,000. The composition sum for compoundable offences, on the other hand, will be doubled to $20,000.
In the end, the Government wants to facilitate a pro-business environment through the introduction of a tiered licensing regime. It also eyes removing some regulatory requirements to encourage innovation. The public consultation exercise will run until July 12.