THE CURRENT EU RULES
Which holiday packages are covered by EU law?
The Package Travel Directive (Council Directive 90/314/EEC) has been
transposed into national laws by all EU countries.
The Directive covers pre-arranged holiday packages which combine at least two of
the following: (1) transport, (2) accommodation, (3) other tourist
services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a
significant proportion of the package.
Consumers are covered where: (a) at least two of the above elements are sold at an inclusive
price and (b) the service covers more than 24 hours or includes an overnight
What is in the Package Travel Directive for consumers?
The Directive protects the interests of consumers buying a package holiday by defining a
range of the organiser’s and retailer’s duties and obligation and some specific
consumer rights. Below is the summary of the key provisions. They all represent
minimum consumer rights, and EU countries have been free to add more
stringent rules to protect consumers in their national laws.
1. Information requirements
The organiser/retailer is obliged to provide the consumer with information on the
pre-contractual stage, in the contract and also before departure.
The Directive also contains special requirements for brochures.
made available to the consumer must not be misleading and contain clear,
comprehensible and accurate information on:
means of transport, type, and category;
its type, location, category or degree of comfort; its main features, its
approval and tourist classification;
(e) meal plan;
and visa requirements as well as health formalities;
(f) details of the
(g) whether a minimum
number of people is required for the package to take place and, if so, the deadline
for informing the consumer in the event of cancellation.
The details contained in the brochure are binding on the organizer (or retailer, as the
case may be), unless the consumer was clearly informed of any changes before
signing the contract (this must then be clearly stated in the brochure) or if
the changes were agreed between the two parties later.
In addition, the consumer must be informed about the following in good time before the start
of the journey:
(h) the times and places of intermediate stops and transport connections, and
details of the place to be occupied by the traveller, e.g. cabin
or berth on a ship, a sleeper compartment on a train;
(i) contact details of the local representative or a local agency which can provide assistance;
when these do not exist, at least an emergency phone number or other
means to contact the organiser or retailer when in difficulty;
(j) information on optional insurance to cover the cost of cancellation by the consumer
or the cost of assistance, including repatriation, in the event of accident
2. Binding prices
The price of the package agreed in the contract is binding, but with some limited exceptions.
Price increase is possible only if the contract expressly provides for this and states precisely how the revised
price is to be calculated, and only to allow for revision in limited situations
due to variations in: (a) transportation costs (including fuel costs), (b)
taxes and fees, such as airport taxes, and (c) currency exchange rates on which
the price of the package is based.
No price increase is allowed during the last 20 days before departure.
3. Right to transfer package
Where the consumer is prevented from proceeding with the package, s/he may transfer his
booking. The transferor of the package and the transferee will be jointly and
severally liable to the organizer or retailer party to the contract for payment
of the balance due and for any additional costs arising from such transfer
4. Cancellation or change of contract terms
If any of the essential elements of the package (such as the price) agreed in the contract is
changed or if the organiser cancels the package, the consumer has the right to
withdraw from the contract and get a full refund.
Alternatively, s/he may accept a substitute package. If the substitute is of lower
quality than the original one, s/he is entitled to receive the price
If the package is cancelled by the organiser, the consumer may also have the right to compensation
in addition to the full refund (with some exceptions, e.g. if the package was
cancelled due to a force majeure situation).
5. The organiser's responsibility and handling complaints
The organiser and/or retailer is liable if the contract is not properly performed
(with some exceptions, e.g. when this is a case of force majeure).
They are also required to provide prompt assistance if the consumer is in difficulty,
even though it is a force majeure situation or the problem is caused by
a third party not connected to the package.
Consumers are entitled to compensation for damages if the contract is not performed
properly (though the amount of the compensation can be limited by international
conventions and to some extent by national laws). The rule on liability,
article 5, is to be interpreted as conferring, in principle, a right also for
compensation for non material damages.
If the service offered on the spot does not correspond to what is in the contract, the
consumer must make a complaint as soon as possible. The organiser (or
their local representative) must try promptly to find a satisfactory solution.
6. Insolvency protection
The organiser and/or retailer must provide sufficient evidence of security for the refund
of the money paid and for the repatriation of the consumers in the event
of insolvency. This means that the consumer must be fully protected against
loss of money if any of the service providers (travel agency, airline, hotel,
etc.) becomes insolvent.