TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (“TICO”) enforces the Travel Industry Act, 2002 (“TIA”) in order to regulate travel agents and wholesalers in Ontario. Their mandate is to protect consumers while maintaining a competitive, educated, and professional industry. In doing so, TICO requires travel professionals and businesses to acquire registration in order to ensure they meet and maintain certain levels of honesty, integrity, and financial responsibility. If registrants violate the TIA or its regulations, TICO has a variety of options including charging them with offences or suspending/limiting/revoking their licence.
Burokas Law acts as a TICO lawyer by representing travel agents and wholesalers in all their dealings with TICO. Services include:
TICO’s powers are generally divided into- Registration and Prosecution.
Travel agents and wholesalers must be registered to act as such. TICO employs a “Registrar” who, with the advice of management and legal, makes administrative decision regarding registration. These actions include:
The Registrar’s authority, while broad, is not absolute. Applicants and registrants (registered individuals or business) can appeal the Registrar’s decision to the License Appeal Tribunal (“LAT”), an independent government tribunal that impartially decides whether the Registrar’s action should be accepted or not.
Registration with a TICO involves meeting both prescribed requirements and general tests for registration. Prescribed requirements can be found in the “General” Regulation of TIA- Ontario Reg 26/05. TICO will not process your application if you have not met them and you will not be entitled to a hearing regarding that decision.
General Test for Registration
Once an individual or business has met all the prescribed requirements for the class of registration they seek, they are entitled to registration. If TICO seeks to refuse their application, they must establish at least one of the following:
At least one of these criteria must be shown by the Registrar to refuse, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend, or impose conditions on an individual or business that is already registered. If TICO wants to take one of these actions, they must issue a “notice of proposal” to refuse, revoke, suspend, refuse to renew, or impose conditions whereby they are required to explain what criteria above they are relying on and why.
TIA employs a concept called an “interested person” to the registration criteria above. An interested person is someone who is either in at least one of many types of legal relationships with the applicant or officer/directors (ex. partners in the same partnership) or, in the opinion of the registrar:
TICO uses the interested persons concept to look beyond the face of a business to determine who is really in control. They are wary of people who appear good on paper being used as fronts for other individuals who would otherwise not be eligible for registration under the criteria listed above.
Once an applicant or registrant receives service (usually through a courier) of a notice of proposal, they have 15 days to file a Notice of Appeal with the Licence Appeal Tribunal (“LAT”). LAT will schedule a “case conference” to:
Hearings at LAT
Hearings at LAT are heard by an impartial member, vice-chair, or chair of the Licence Appeal Tribunal. They are structured similar to a trial in court, although slightly less formal. In most cases the member will make determinations on contentious factual issues and then determine whether or not the Registrar’s Notice of Proposal should be carried out, not carried out, or not carried out subject to certain conditions on a registration. LAT’s rules and procedures for case conferences and hearings are outlined in their own Rules of Practice and the Statutory Powers and Procedure Act, 1990.
Conditions of Registration
An individual or business may have conditions on their class of registration that creates additional obligations or limits their ability to practice. Conditions arise either when the applicant or registrant (as the case may be) consents to conditions (often as an alternative to a proposal to refuse or revoke) or, the Registrar issues a Notice of Proposal to impose conditions on a registration. The latter can be appealed to LAT in the same manner as a refusal, suspension, refuse to renew, or a revocation.
TICO is also empowered by the TIA to receive complaints from the public and compel a registered individual or business to provide information regarding the complaints as “soon as practicable”. TICO has compliant handlers that are empowered to mediate complaints but they can also refer the matter to the Registrar who may then issue a Notice of Proposal or an investigator who may lay charges. It’s important for registrants to work with complaint handlers and adhere to their requests for information to avoid administrative action.
Inspections is the other primary way TICO obtains information that may lead to administrative action. Registered individuals and business in the travel industry can be subject to inspections without warning for the purpose of ensuring compliance with their rules and regulations, dealing with a complaint, or ensuring that the individual or corporation remains entitled to registration.
These inspectors are empowered to search money, valuables, documents, data storage devices, and records relevant to the inspection. They may temporarily seize such items. During the course of an inspection, a Regulator’s inspector may require a person to produce documents, records, and data storage devices. All registrants are prohibited from obstructing an inspector.
TICO also employs “Investigators” to investigate offences under TIA. They have Police like powers in executing search warrants and gathering evidence. Such investigations can lead to a prosecution, proposals, or both.
A person (not just a registrant) is guilty of an offence if they fail to comply with any section of TIA. Individuals convicted are liable to a fines up to $50,000 ($250,000 for corporations) and two years less a day in prison.
The charges laid by TICO are considered “quasi-criminal” offences under the Provincial Offences Act, 1990. Individuals charged will be provided by the TICO's investigator with an Summons to Appear that will legally require an individual (or their agent) to appear at Provincial Offences Court in the Ontario Court of Justice closest to where the offence is alleged to have occurred. TICO has prosecutors that will act like a Crown Attorney in a criminal matter in prosecuting the matter in court.
Once before the courts, the matter will progress similar to criminal charges where they will be a series of court appearances, disclosure of evidence to the accused, possible conferences with a Justice of the Peace, and possibly a trial before a Justice of the Peace.
Being found guilty of an offences under the TIA or the Consumer Protection Act will not give an individual or corporation a criminal record but will seriously prejudice their ability to obtain or maintain registration.
Burokas Law represents travel agents, wholesalers, or people seeking to be either. If you have any compliance questions or need an advocate when facing an administrative action from TICO, please feel free contact Burokas Law.