A leading industry lawyer has suggested the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) is “having a laugh” with some of its proposals for reform of the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).
Travlaw partner Krystene Bousfield praised the department for its engagement with the sector since issuing a Call for Evidence on reform of the PTRs last September.
But speaking at a Travlaw Big Tent Event in London, Bousfield said: “They’re having a laugh with some of the stuff in there, seeing if we’re paying attention.”
Proposals in the Call for Evidence included introduction of a price threshold and removal from the regulations of lower-priced packages. The proposal has been widely criticised and Bousfield suggested it would be dropped, saying: “The DBT has ruled it out because of the reaction.”
Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel and chair of Abta, agreed: “There are some odd things in there. Why would you have protection only for holidays of a particular value?”
Abta director of legal affairs Simon Bunce suggested the proposal for a price threshold was “a tester to see the appetite of the industry for moving away from regulation”. He noted: “The response has been pretty unanimous.”
But Bunce suggested travel companies “do very well” from the confidence the Package Travel Regulations give customers.
He said: “Travel is inherently risky. You’re asking people to hand over considerable sums of money a long time before they get the services and when they get the services, they could be halfway around the world.
“The regulations give people confidence to part with their money and you need that for a thriving travel sector. Travel companies do well out of it, from the confidence it gives customers.”
Bunce added: “Regulation also helps smaller businesses. The public know there are regulations around travel. People know they can go to any company [to book].
“If we didn’t have regulations, people would go for larger companies. Regulation provides a level playing field for smaller companies.”
Bousfield suggested “if it had not have been for the regulations” during Covid “so many more businesses would have been in trouble”.
She insisted: “We have to have regulations, but we need enforcement to be fair and consistent, and the regulations need to be simplified.”
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