e'll say it up front: NPC is wrong, and ASTA and ARTA are right. NPC, in case you haven't been reading your alphabet soup, is National Processing Co., the operator of ARC's settlement system and of an unrelated industry commission payment service, NPC Commission Express.

NPC's product is a valuable one. It consolidates commission payments from various participating suppliers and remits them to agents in a single payment, with a reconciliation statement to boot. It's free to agents, and thousands of retailers use it.

Some of those agents, however, prefer to get a check in the mail with a paper report, rather than a direct deposit. Those agents have until Sept. 7 to change their minds, or they will begin to see a portion of their commissions drained off as processing fees, to the tune of $2 per supplier for any payment more than $4.

ASTA and ARTA think this is on the high side, and we agree. ASTA figures it could cost the average agency several hundred bucks a year, and for what? For the privilege of receiving one's own money?

This episode is triggering a replay of the dispute over ARC's new surcharges for agents who continue to report sales on paper. So we will repeat ourselves:

A paperless system of electronic funds transfers and electronic communication makes a lot of sense for NPC, as it does for ARC. It may be better in every way than the system it replaces. But we have the same objection to this move that we have to ARC's new fee structure: It penalizes agents who aren't ready to jump when ARC and NPC say "jump."

NPC claims it has been working on this for months. Rumors were circulating a year ago, which NPC resolutely denied. Now it is suddenly foisting these fees on the trade with little advance notice to agents or their national trade groups.

This could have been done differently.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI