On Tuesday 27th October 2015 the European Parliament discussed and then passed the new rules for the updated EU Package Travel Directive, which include a new ‘linked travel arrangement’ that covers click-through sales between linked websites. The vote completes the EU legislative process and Member States now have two years to include the new rules in their national laws and an additional six months to make them applicable, i.e. by 27th April 2018.
The European Parliament made some changes to the European Commission’s proposals. These include an obligation by the organiser of travel to give clients approximate departure and return times and an indication of the nature of any possible extra costs. Clients will also 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% (the European Commission had proposed 10%) or if “unavoidable” and “unforeseen” events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks strike the place of destination.
German MEP Birgit Collin-Langen, EP Rapporteur, said: “Due to the changes in the travel market and the increasing trend towards online travel bookings there is an urgent need to modernise and adapt the old directive which dates back to 1990. With this revised legislation, the rights of travellers in Europe are strengthened overall. New booking models are now included within its scope and travellers are informed comprehensively of their rights. We have also managed to take into account the economic interests of the industry – operators, travel agencies or hotels.”
Extension of 1990 Package Travel Rules Scope:
Distinction Between Pre-arranged Packages, Customised Packages, and Linked Travel Arrangements (all covered by the new Directive):
Pre-packaged arrangements by tour operators. Little flexibility for consumers as to the dates and prices; multiple choices but limited ability to customise.
Packaging is done with the customer in real-time on the basis of available components, offering an enhanced possibility for the consumer to customise.
Linked Travel Arrangements:
A consumer, having booked one travel service on one website, is then invited to book another service through a targeted link or similar and books such a service within 24 hours. If the traveller’s name, e-mail address and payment details are transmitted from the first website to the second, then the arrangement is not considered a linked arrangement, but rather a package, as in the second example.
- Package travel retailers may be made liable if something goes wrong during the holiday, in addition to the organiser of the package. The retailer may be made liable where travellers are invited to purchase additional travel services (such as a hotel room or car rental) on a linked website, and the retailer passes the traveller’s name or personal details to the other service provider.
- Travellers must be repatriated if their travel organiser becomes insolvent or goes out of business while they are on holiday. Member States should ensure that insolvency protection schemes are effective and able to guarantee prompt repatriation and immediate refunds to affected travellers.
- Prices can only be raised after a sale is concluded for specific reasons, such as an increase in fuel prices or taxes. If the price is raised by more than 8%, the traveller should be offered reimbursement or another holiday of equivalent value.
- Any price reduction of more than 3% must be passed on to the traveller. Organisers will not be allowed to change flight times significantly (i.e. by more than three hours) after the sale has been concluded. If the flight times are changed as such, the traveller should be offered an equivalent package or full reimbursement.
- Where the traveller is unable to return home on time due to “unforeseen” or “unavoidable” circumstances such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, the organiser must arrange accommodation. This must be of a similar level to that originally booked. Alternatively, the organiser must pay for accommodation – not exceeding five days – at up to €125 per night if it is unwilling or unable to make a booking on the traveller’s behalf.
- In the case of a linked travel arrangement, each organiser is responsible for their own part of the contract.
- If the trader fails to inform the traveller that the travel arrangements he/she has booked do not constitute a “package”, the traveller will have the same rights as anyone who books a package holiday.