After intense criticism and almost half of its articles vetoed, Bill no. 5120 intended to regulate the activities of tourism agencies in Brazil was finally passed into Law (no. 12974/2014) by the President of the Republic.
Since its proposal in mid 2001, the Bill was discussed by consumer protection bodies and tourism entities operating in Brazil. By and large, the outcome of this Bill was considered positive, because it brought significant advancements to Brazil's tourism sector.
After the regulation of tourism agencies' activities, the companies will now be classified into two categories: (i) travel agencies, those operating as agents of tourism services only, or, (ii) travel and tourism agencies or tourism operators, those not only operating as agents of the services, but also offering travel-related products.
Basically, one is more restricted, because it operates as agent of the services only, whereas the other is broader, because it offers associated products.
The regulation of the agencies' activities was an urgent need in the sector, which, before the Law, allowed any individual to operate as a travel agent, reason for a state of constant of insecurity for end consumers and the tourism market in Brazil.
However, the approval of the new Law was most commemorated among the consumer protection bodies, in view of the President's veto on issues related to the agencies' liability that directly violated the Consumer Protection Code.
The most controversial issues of the Bill concerned articles 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 25, which were much discussed and eventually vetoed. Should those articles be maintained, travel agencies would no longer be jointly and severally liable along with their market partners, a situation entirely unacceptable from the consumer protection law standpoint.
By the way, President Dilma's veto was justified by the argument that those provisions violated public-interest rules and the general principles of consumer protection and defense.
Tourism sectors maintained their criticism; however the President's position could not be different, otherwise that would represent a step back into the history of the defense of consumers' interests.
It is important to understand that the Consumer Relations Law is a micro system inserted into the Private Law, and includes specific principles and guarantees under the Federal Constitution and not only under the Civil Code.
Any reference to the consumer law entails the reasoning that companies' liability is not a consequence of the irregular performance of their activity, that is, it is not presupposed as a result of a failure or damage exclusively caused by them. Quite the opposite, companies' liability stems from the regular performance of their activity; it suffices that they have taken part in the chain of suppliers whose service or product has cause any disadvantageous consequence to the end consumer.
The Consumer Protection Code provides for the joint and several liability of all those taking part in the economic chain of production, circulation and distribution of products and provision of services. They are joint and several suppliers. This condition allows consumers to exercise their rights against any party within that chain, which, in turn, may resort to the right of recourse against the others, should that be convenient to it. This is the form of procedure.
In practice, considering that the agencies were not excluded from the so much feared joint and several strict liability, quite likely they will elect their assigns and market partners with the greatest care and will perform the duty of information and transparency that is sought in consumer relations; all that will increase the safety of consumers tourists.
Finally, there are not doubts about the positive impacts of Law no. 12974/2014 on Brazil's tourism market. Despite such, we, Brazilians, remain with the uncomfortable sensation of contempt and indignation we face in our daily life, for the fact that the Law regulating tourism agencies' activities was only approved on the eve of the World Cup.
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