The new 2018 Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations mean that package holidays consisting of a flight, hotel, car-hire or other tourist services (either bought online for an all-in price or through linked webpages) get the same protection as packages bought in travel agencies.
The widening of the package travel rules also means that travellers have more options to cancel a contract and get clear advance information on who is ultimately responsible if something goes wrong.
Andy Allen, UK ECC Director, said: “Given that more than 90% of UK consumers travel to Europe more than they did 10 years ago, this is sunny news for anybody about to book their 2019 summer holiday. It is an important step in giving more protection to holidaymakers who put together their own ‘holiday packages' from travel services sold on the internet. Ultimately this should protect travellers against sharp price increases or flight time changes and specify their rights better.
“The previous EU rules on package holidays date back to 1990. Since then, the growth in cheap flights and internet sales have significantly changed the way travellers plan and buy holidays. This new buying behaviour made the previous directive outdated, often leaving consumers in a legal grey area where it was no longer clear whether their holiday arrangements constituted a legal ‘package’.
“This was further complicated by the fact that different insolvency protection in European countries sometimes made it difficult for travellers to know their rights.”
The European Parliament says that although 23% of EU travellers still buy their package holidays in the traditional way, more and more people make their own holiday arrangements on the internet through commercially linked traders.
The new 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 include:
- 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 are now also able to 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 will be the organiser of the package in all EU Member States.
- Clear liability for booking mistakes: traders are made explicitly liable for booking errors.
- Clarification on essential consumer rights: the organiser has 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 now 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.
Andy added: “This is good news all round for UK consumers booking package deals online: a very positive change. The new rules cover over 120 million holidaymakers buying customized, combined travel typical of online sales. They adapt the EU rules on package travel to the digital age. There should no longer be any doubt in a consumer’s mind as to whether their holiday constitutes a package deal or not, as there is also now be an obligation for traders to clearly inform customers before they buy if they are purchasing a package or a linked-travel arrangement.”
The UK ECC’s ‘package travel across the EU’ leaflet is now available in the publications
section of the UK ECC.
More information is also available here in the UK ECC’s consumer topics section - Package travel