The new package travel rules cover two types of contracts: package deals (pre-arranged by tour organisers or customised by the traveller) and ‘linked travel arrangements’.
Under the new rules, package holidays consist of two or more travel services - such as flights, accommodation, car hire or other tourist services such as guided tours - bought from one single trader or offered by travel agents with different traders at a total price.
‘Linked travel arrangements’ (the concept of which is introduced by the new rules) is where the consumer, having booked one travel service on one website, is invited to book another service through a link. The new rules offer insolvency protection in some circumstances and provided that the second online booking is made within 24 hours.
The new Package Travel rules mean that there are now:
- More predictable prices: holidaymakers have the right to cancel a package-deal contract and get their money back if the price of the package rises by more than 8% or if “unavoidable” events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks strike the destination.
- Stronger cancellation rights: free cancellation before departure in case of natural disasters, war or other serious situations at the destination. Package travellers can also cancel their holiday for any reason by paying a reasonable cancellation fee.
- Clear identification of the liable party: who has to deal with the problem if something goes wrong. This is the organiser of the package in all EU Member States.
- Clear liability for booking mistakes: traders have been made explicitly liable for booking errors.
- Clarification on essential consumer rights: the organiser is obliged to help travellers in difficulty, for example with information on health services and consular assistance, and help make alternative travel plans. For example, travellers are entitled to extra accommodation for three nights if the return journey can’t be carried out on time if there is a natural disaster.
- Guarantees of money-back and repatriation only occurs if the package organiser goes bankrupt. Also, sellers of linked-travel arrangements (if they are an airline) are obliged to take out insolvency protection, guaranteeing refunds and repatriation in such cases.
More information is available here on the UK ECC website and here on the European Commission website. Also, check out a video produced by ECC Italy to explain some elements of the new package travel rules.