The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) reports that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Antitrust Division, regarding what ARTA calls “ARC's foray into commercial endeavors which allegedly exceed the business model approved by the DOJ when ARC was incorporated.” ARC launched its Helix program last month.
ARTA’s complaint asks the DOJ to review various ARC programs, including Helix, Verified Travel Consultant (VTC), and MarketPlace which ARTA believes have nothing to do with the air sales accreditation and settlement operations approved by the DOJ when ARC sought a business review letter in 1984.
“At that time, the DOJ approved the airlines' joint venture to create ARC, but with the proviso that any material changes to ARC's operations or any operations which prove to be anticompetitive in purpose or effect could result in enforcement action, “ ARTA said.
"That's precisely what we allege has happened. We believe that ARC has strayed heavily from its primary and approved operation to provide travel agents who sell air travel with accreditation and settlement services. ARC appears now to be in the business of general travel sales and appears to be leveraging its dominant position as the defacto travel agency regulator to compete with long-established travel agent associations, marketing, consortia, and franchise groups", said Alexander Anolik, ARTA's Chief Legal Counsel.
ARTA said it feels strongly that ARC should focus on providing the air sales accreditation and settlement services it was authorized to manage. ARC should “leave the general marketing, sales, and other agency/non-air supplier relationships in the hands of agency groups which are more appropriate and experienced to handle them.” ARTA has asked the DOJ for expedited treatment of its complaint.