Although the need for disclaimers in the agency business is not
new, I am hearing, or reading, more about the subject lately.
For one thing, I recently edited our series on selling travel
insurance. The authors advised you to get some kind of sign-off
from clients if they choose not to buy coverage. Maryland attorney
Jeff Miller even provided sample disclaimers, which appeared in
Travel Weekly on April 5.
At the spring '99 Minneapolis Travel Trade Show, local attorney
Todd Wind said the most important disclaimer is one that discloses
the names of principals and advises that your agency has no control
over these third parties.
In more dramatic and tragic circumstances -- tourist murders in
Uganda and NATO bombings of Yugoslavia -- we must address how you
protect your clients with warnings and protect your business from
liability. Washington attorney Mark Pestronk advised including
safety issues in a standard agency disclaimer.
Other disclaimers are a bit more out of the ordinary. For one,
Todd suggested a Year 2000 disclaimer advising that you do not know
that all suppliers' computers are prepared for 2000 and that the
agency cannot control the repercussions if the suppliers are not
Other possible subjects for disclaimers are crime and high-risk
adventure travel. Then, for a niche disclaimer, Jeff suggests you
consider a disclaimer to make clients aware that if they sail on
one of the new mega-cruise ships, they may not get the dinner
seating they want or have access to other amenities. (More appears
at his Web site, www.jmillerlaw.com.)
This seems like a lot of legal concerns to be bringing to the
selling table, doesn't it?
The idea of a disclaimer about life on a big ship sent me to
Jeff for help on boiling all this advice down. He said judge the
client, the type of trip and the destination when determining how
to use disclaimers.
He said every agency should have two or three standard
fill-in-the-blank disclaimers, and -- when selling leisure -- the
most basic are those that disclose third-party suppliers and prove
travel insurance was offered. He said his clients range from
agencies that use no disclaimers to those that use them
"religiously." The first group fears clients will leave, but, he
said, agencies at the other end of the spectrum are proof they will
If you are gun-shy on this, try talking to agents who use the
documents successfully. It is, after all, just as commonsensical to
protect your business from legal claims as it is to charge fees if
that is what it takes to turn a profit.