UK trade ‘fortunate’ to be outside EU package travel reform

The UK trade is “fortunate” not to be subject to European Commission proposals for package travel reform, according to Abta director of legal affairs Simon Bunce.

Speaking at the recent Abta Travel Finance Conference in London, Bunce said: “The EC is looking at limiting upfront prepayments so a [package] organiser can’t ask for more than 25% [of the price of a holiday] and can’t seek the balance more than 28 days before departure.”

He suggested: “There is lots of push back on that.”

However, he noted an organiser “can ask for more” from a consumer if they have to pay more to suppliers .

Bunce noted the EC is also looking at an increased right to refunds for consumers due to extraordinary circumstances, not just at a destination but at the consumer’s place of residence.

He argued: “This came out of Covid when people were unable to travel. But what has that to do with a tour operator?

“It seems to put liability for every problem on to tour operators.”

The EC also proposes to clarify and extend the impact of travel warnings on consumers’ refund rights.

Bunce insisted: “We’re very fortunate we’re not caught up in the discussions in Europe. The discussions here [on reform of the Package Travel Regulations] are of much more use.”

The European Commission announced changes to the Package Travel Directive and an associated revision of passengers’ rights at the end of November.

It proposes to enshrine the right of package organisers to a refund from service provides such as airlines and hotels within seven days, but with new rules limiting downpayments by customers to 25% of a package price except where organisers “face costs justifying a higher downpayment”.

The EC also proposes “to clarify that official travel warnings, or serious restrictions covering the travel destination or after returning from there, are important elements in assessing whether unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances have arisen and significantly affect the performance of a package”.

The Commission notes: “It is proposed to specify that circumstances in the country of departure, residence and the destination may be taken into account when assessing the right for travellers to cancel a package due to unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances.”

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) issued a Call for Evidence on proposals to reform the Package Travel Regulations – UK version of the existing Package Travel Directive – last September.

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