Agents protest at bank rebates

Travel agents in Germany have taken to the streets in protest at rebates offered by banks for package holiday bookings.

About 30 travel agents protested in Frankfurt earlier this month against “unfair” kickback payments by banks. The agents demonstrated against the practice of the Volksbank, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and Sparkasse of refunding up to 7% of a holiday booking. The demonstrators protested in front of the four banks in Frankfurt city centre. The protest was organised by agency cooperation group Best-RMG.Consumers take advantage of free consulting in travel agencies and then book the holiday through the bank in order to get the discount, agents claimed. This amounts to unfair competition, they said. Banks apparently finance the rebates through their marketing budgets. In the latest move, the advisory board of the Schmetterling Reisen agency consortium, which claims to represents some 2,500 travel agencies, has written an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle. It criticised the “highly dubious” methods of the banks to compete with agencies, talking about “a true fight with consulting theft and rebates”. The practice could lead to agencies going out of business, the board claimed.