European Parliament votes to extend Package Travel Directive
The European Parliament has voted to amend and extend the protections of the EU’s Package Travel Directive (Directive 90/314/EEC). Following a vote on Wednesday, 12th March, MEPs approved by 610 votes to 58 a proposal of the European Commission seeking to modernise the legislation by taking into account changes in the way holidays are booked. Existing rules cover consumers who have booked a “package” trip (that is, an all-inclusive offer combining at least two of the following elements – transport, accommodation, and additional services such as sightseeing tours). However, with the advent of the internet, more and more consumers are using commercially linked online traders to book holidays and many such bookings do not fall within the definition of “package” as set out in the directive. As these bookings are now estimated to account for 118 million trips a year, the EU has moved to ensure that consumers have additional protections, similar to those afforded travellers on a package trip.
The draft rules set out today cover two types of contracts –
- Package holidays: packages consisting of two or more elements (as above), bought from a single trader and paid for at the same time. MEPs also voted that additional bookings made by the buyer from the same trader within 24 hours of the conclusion of the original sale should be considered part of the same package.
- “Linked” travel arrangements: arrangements consisting of two or more elements, bought from different traders and concluded through separate contracts, but linked through personal data such as contact information, credit card details, or passport numbers being passed on by the first trader. All contracts should be concluded within 24 hours in order to qualify as “linked”.
The main changes envisaged are as follows –
- 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.
Today’s vote closes the first reading of the new rules and ensures that the result is available for the new Parliament, which will then negotiate with Member States on the final wording of the directive. Negotiations are expected to begin after the upcoming European elections in May. Parliament proposes that Member States should then have two years to bring the new rules into effect once they are approved.
For more information on your rights when booking a package holiday, read our handy guide here.
If you have a query or want to make a complaint, click here or call our office on (01) 8797 620.
The European Parliament press release on the vote can be accessed here.