The Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995 protects consumers who book a package holiday. It includes a package holiday taken at home in Ireland or abroad and covers holidays which are sold in Ireland, whether or not the companies are operating in Ireland or in another country.
What is a Package Holiday?
It is important to establish whether your holiday is a package holiday within the meaning of the Regulations. Your holiday is a package holiday if it has been pre-arranged and sold at an inclusive price by a travel agent or directly by tour operator, covers at least 24 hours (or includes an overnight stay) and comprises at least two of the following components:
- Other tourist services that are not directly linked to transport or accommodation but which make up a significant part of the cost and package (e.g. guided tours)
It does not matter if you are asked to pay separately for different components of the package; it still remains a ‘package holiday’. However, any arrangements made for you by a travel agent or tour operator to accommodate specifically requested requirements are not regarded as package travel.
The package holiday brochure must indicate clearly and accurately the following information:
- 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
The information contained in the brochure is binding on the organiser and it must not be false or misleading. 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.
Before the contract is concluded, the organiser must also provide you with written 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
Changes to the Package Holiday
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
The organiser does have the right to cancel a package holiday due to factors beyond their control. In such cases, you are still entitled to a refund or a replacement package as set out above.
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.
Price revisions are only allowed in a number of specific circumstances, e.g. 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.
What to do if something goes wrong
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).
- Submit your complaint in writing to the organiser within 28 days of your return home. You should send another letter of complaint if the organiser does not respond within a reasonable time.
If the organiser refuses to offer any compensation, you may pursue the matter through the Small Claims Court or, alternatively, through out-of-court dispute resolution (e.g. arbitration), if available. You should refer to your contract terms as the package holiday contract will outline the procedure for dealing with complaints.
You should note however that you may not be entitled to compensation if the failures which occur in the performance of the contract are attributable to:
- A third party, unconnected with the holiday arrangements, and which are unforeseeable or unavoidable
- Unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond the control of the organiser