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ARTA Urges NPC to Back Off on Fees



ARTA's Chairman Nancy Linares told her membership last week that the association would ask commission settlement company NPC to hold off implementing new fees for its Commission Express program or face retaliation.

Linares said that in the past, NPC has sent checks (twice a week, in many cases) to participating agencies for commissions earned on sales of several suppliers' products, including Carnival, Hertz and Alamo. NPC alerted agents by fax recently that, effective Sept. 7, agents must convert to a completely electronic system (direct deposits to the agency's bank account and online sales reports) or pay a new fee of $2 per supplier, per check to continue receiving "paper" checks and reports.

Linares said she and several East Coast regional agent organizations sent a joint letter to NPC asking for a 90-day moratorium on the fees until NPC could meet with travel agent groups and the 12 suppliers who use the Commission Express program.

"We also suggested a compromise - agents would pay a fee if they did not want to use direct deposits, but they would not pay for paper reports," Linares said. "Earlier, we had talked to the suppliers, and most of them thought this would be a reasonable compromise."

NPC said "no deal," she added.

"NPC refuses to make any compromise or accommodation, and NPC refuses to meet with agents and suppliers to discuss the deal," she said.

Linares said ARTA will now do three things: 1) Sic the association's attorney, Al Anolik, on the company, who Linares said believes "It's not legal for NPC to change commission payments unilaterally without agents' consent," 2) Contact the 12 suppliers again to tell them that NPC refuses to talk to travel agents and them, and that "We need their help to pressure NPC to talk to all of us," and 3) Have the ARTA board of directors discuss a nonprofit deal with a major financial institution to create a competitor for NPC.

"Cutting commission checks to agents is not brain surgery, right?" Linares asked. "Several weeks ago, we contacted 11 major national banks and credit card processing companies, and more than half of them offer check outsourcing services to corporations.

"What we have in mind is establishing a completely independent, nonprofit effort - operated by one of these financial vendors - that would process payments from suppliers to agents. This effort would have an advisory board of directors with one member from each and every travel agent group that wants to participate."

Linares said that in the interim, agents should go ahead and register with NPC.

"If you want to avoid paying fees, you'll need to sign up for the electronic program," she said. "That's the best advice to insure that you continue to get paid while ARTA works on the long-term solution."