ASTA and ARC Clash

ASTA is taking a tougher stance with the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) and has filed a new complaint over ARC's plan to withdraw funds from the agents' ARC checking account at an airline's request. ASTA says a move by ARC to send agents invoices using ARC's Payment Express for alleged carrier policy violations is unprecedented. Normally the action would be a debit memo.

ASTA says it wants to test the legality of ARC's role in drafting an agent's checking account with the arbiter but stressed that carriers-in this case United Airlines-have a right to enforce its policies. A favorable ruling could force United to use normal debit memo procedures. ASTA says agents should be aware of ARC's plan to draft funds from accounts on Jan.31.

The complaint against ARC drafts follows last weeks tough ASTA stance on ARC's service fee increases. ARC's decision, ASTA says, will increase administrative fees by as much as 172 percent. Paul Ruden, ASTA's vice president of legal and industry affairs, argues that ARC's fee increase inaccurately represents the current value of ARC's services to travel agents. ARC, in turn, argues that agents who benefit from ARC should pay a higher and fairer amount of costs.

ASTA says it will also serve ARC with requests for discovery asking ARC to disclose internal finances and the cost of programs they operate-some paid for by agents. ASTA expects the ARC fee increase issue to be resolved in June. Visit http://www.asta.org. (GD)