This story was updated on Monday, February 27, 2023 at 3:56 p.m. EST.
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), as well as other industry stakeholders, have engaged in extensive advocacy, meeting with Sunwing senior leadership to amend a recent class action settlement in Quebec that bypasses travel advisors in the booking process.
Early this month, a Quebec judge issued a ruling accepting the settlement offered by Sunwing to resolve a Quebec consumer class-action lawsuit where it was alleged that Sunwing breached consumer protection law by advertising that Sunwing travellers would receive a complimentary glass of champagne when travelling.
(What was allegedly served was sparkling wine that does not hold the protected champagne designation).
This lawsuit, dating back to 2017, has been before the courts for several years. Late last year, there was an agreed-upon settlement that would negatively impact travel agencies and independent travel agents because it required consumers to book direct with Sunwing with a discount code, bypassing travel agents.
The approved settlement gives select consumers in Quebec who purchased travel with Sunwing between Feb. 10, 2014 and April 30, 2017 - approximately 1.45M customers - access to a seven per cent discount code (valid on discounted travel and with no blackouts), with unlimited use for up to five travellers, for any Sunwing trip leaving any airport in Quebec or Ottawa.
Agents left out
"Many of the original bookings would have been travel agent clients and notably, consumers do not need to furnish proof of having purchased earlier travel with Sunwing,” said Wendy Paradis, ACTA's president. “So, the potential here could be huge in terms of how many people might try to use this code to book over the next three years, as per the terms of the settlement.”
“Currently, the discount specifically excludes travel agencies and independent travel agents because the code is only valid on the consumer website."
Consumers have three years to book, and to be clear, the discount is not available to all consumers. It is specific to class members only.
A website will be set up for class members, who will be required to register on the website and Sunwing will then verify if the registrant is a class member.
Once verified, Sunwing will email the class member a user account and password to access the website.
ACTA says it will continue to advocate to Sunwing leadership and calls for Sunwing to respect its trade partners and allow travel agents to make bookings for their clients – and to pay commission on bookings using the discount code.