EU consumer protections only apply to a package holiday bought from / booked with a travel agency / tour operator.
The purchase of various travel services through online booking processes may not necessarily result in a package.
Independent holiday individual services purchased from separate operators are governed by the Terms & Conditions specified in the contracts, which also detail the applicable jurisdiction law.
Consumers enjoy more consumer rights protections when buying a package than when buying travel services independently.
A package can be pre-arranged by a trader (ready-made) or customised by a consumer (dynamic/customised) and means the following:
- It is a combination of at least two different types of travel services for the purpose of the same trip or holiday
- It lasts for more than 24 hours (or includes an overnight stay)
A travel package can be:
- Standard, when it is sold at an inclusive price (e.g. purchased from a single point of sale, irrespective of whether a single or separate contracts are concluded with a single or separate traders).
- A click-through packaget – when first trader providing one service within the package contract forwards the consumer’s name, payment details and e-mail address to the second trader or other subsequent traders. The second booking must be completed within 24 hours of the first.
Travel services within a package include:
- car rental;
- any other tourist services that account for at least 25% cent of the package value
A package does not include these services:
- Short trips under 24 hours that don’t include accommodation: guided tours and excursions
- Residential accommodation for long-term education
- Features which are part of another travel service: airport transfers, hotel swimming pool access, ski passes, etc. (unless if they represent more than 25% cent of the package value)
PACKAGE TRAVEL CONSUMER RIGHTS
The holiday brochure must contain the following information, which is binding and must not be false or misleading:
- The price of the holiday
- The holiday destination and the means of transport used
- The type, location and description of the accommodation
- The meal plan
- The passport and visa requirements
- The health formalities
- The timetable for payment
- The deadline for informing the consumer in the event of cancellation
- Any tax or compulsory charge
Before the contract is concluded, the organiser must also provide information on the following:
- The passport and visa requirements
- Health formalities (i.e. if you are required to have any special vaccinations or health advice)
- Insurance requirements
- The arrangements in place should the consumer need to be repatriated (return home unexpectedly)
- In the event of insolvency, the arrangements for the security of the money paid over
If an organiser significantly alters a term of the contract (e.g. price or accommodation) or cancels the contract, you must be given one of the following options:
- A replacement package of equivalent or superior quality
- A lower grade package with a refund of the difference in price between the two packages
- A full refund
Price revisions of the travel package by the organiser are only allowed in a number of specific circumstances:
- currency fluctuations
- variations in the cost of fuel
- changes in government tax or duty.
No price changes are allowed within 20 days of the departure date.
BY THE COMPANY
The organiser does have the right to cancel a package holiday due to factors beyond their control or where they can’t get the minimum number of participants needed for a trip to run. In these situations, you ar entitled to:
- A replacement holiday of equal or superior quality
- A lower quality holiday, plus a refund for the difference between the two trips
- A full refund
BY THE PASSENGER
You can cancel at any time up to the start of your holiday for a reasonable cancellation fee. If you cancel your holiday yourself, you must take into account that you may lose your deposit or be required to pay a cancellation fee.
You are entitled to a free cancellation and a full refund in the following situations:
- Extraordinary circumstances: war, terrorism, floods and earthquakes that will significantly affect the holiday or prevent you from reaching your destination safely.
- If the price is increased by more than 8% by the organiser.
- If significant changes to the holiday are made by the organiser (such as flight departure and arrival times) that will affect the other services included in the package (like accommodation and transfer arrangements).
You may buy directly from the trader who combines the packages (the organiser, e.g. a tour operator) or through a retailer (e.g. a travel agent). Both have formal responsibilities (e.g. liability for misleading brochures). The organiser is responsible for the actual performance of the package, irrespective of the providers of the travel services included in the package. Organisers are also required to provide a financial guarantee to cover refunds and repatriation in the event of insolvency of the organiser.
PACKAGE TRAVEL REDRESS OPTIONS
If you enter into a contract based on what was in the brochure, you can claim damages if the information turns out to be false. The package holiday contract will outline the procedure for dealing with complaints.
Note that you may not be entitled to compensation if the failures which occur in the performance of the contract are attributable to your actions, a third party, unconnected with the holiday arrangements, unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond the control of the organiser.
If you run into difficulties while on holiday you should:
- Report the problem immediately to the local representative or the organiser.
- Give the local representative or the organiser the opportunity to remedy the situation at no extra cost.
- If the problem is not resolved, gather as much evidence as possible to support your case (e.g. take photographs).
After your return from holiday:
- Submit your complaint in writing to the organiser within 28 days.
- Send another letter of complaint if the organiser does not respond within a reasonable time
OUT OF COURT
If you’re unhappy with the trader’s response or they fail to respond within a reasonable timeframe, you can ask your local consumer organisations for assistance:
If your complaint is unsucceful and the trader refuses to offer any compensation, you may pursue the matter through the Small Claims Court:
- If you are an Irish consumer and you wish to report an Irish travel business, you can avail of the Small Claims Procedure in Ireland
- If you are an Irish consumer and you wish to report a travel business based elsewhere in the EU/EEA, you can initiate action through the European Small Claims procedure through the Irish courts
LINKED TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS
This type of travel involves buying two or more travel services from different companies that are linked, but under separate contracts. Linked travel arrangements enjoy similar consumer protections if they meet the folowing requirements:
- Must include at least two different types of travel services
- The services are purchased for the purpose of the same trip or holiday (but do not constitute a package)
- The services result in the conclusion of separate contracts with the individual travel service providers
- The seller facilitates a single point of sale or internet page, but separate payments for each travel service.
- The second contract must be concluded within 24 hours from the first one
You have similar but fewer rights with a linked travel arrangement than with a package contract and these only extend to insolvency of the company with which you made your first booking – in this case you are netitled to a refund or repatriation. Consumer protections are also available to consumers where the trader facilitating a ‘linked travel arrangement’ failed to inform consumers about the insolvency protection, or that they will not benefit from the other rights applying to packages.