Price threshold plan for PTRs reform set to be dropped

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) is ready to drop its proposal of a price threshold for protecting holidays under the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) while retaining changes welcomed by the trade.

However, there is no indication of how soon the reform will move forward, in part because of the impact of the Post Office IT scandal.

The proposal for a minimum price threshold was included in a Call for Evidence on PTRs reform issued last autumn.

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Craig Belshaw, DBT assistant director for consumer policy, confirmed the idea “has not received a positive response” when he addressed the Abta Travel Finance Conference last month, and said: “It’s an area we’re not likely to pursue.”

He noted that the DBT is “still looking at” a proposal to exclude domestic packages from the PTRs, with “some aspects better received than others” in responses to the Call for Evidence. Protection is expected to be retained for domestic packages that include transport.

Belshaw reported that the department received more than 150 submissions and said: “We’re really pleased by the response.”

The DBT will present feedback to ministers by April, he said. But Belshaw noted: “They’re busy, what with the small business of the Post Office, so it’s unclear when we’ll be able to say something more.”

Referring to a proposal to clarify the right of travel organisers to refunds from suppliers for cancellations, Belshaw said: “We’re keen to look at ways to make that more practical.” But he warned: “It will be challenging.”

Abta director of legal affairs Simon Bunce noted the proposal to remove domestic packages from the PTRs was “driven by complaints by the UK hospitality sector, which believes it’s hampered by the regulations”.

He said: “The problem is the regulations don’t just provide financial protection. You could only include packages that include transport, but questions would be asked as soon as we get a significant failure.”

Bunce noted Abta is arguing for two issues not raised by the Call for Evidence to be addressed: “One, the anomaly to come out of the X vs Kuoni [Supreme Court case] where a hotel was considered not liable for an assault on a customer, but the tour operator was found liable.

“Second, the 2018 regulations extending the liability of organisers when a holiday is cut short due to no fault of the operator.”

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