The reform responds to a fundamental transformation of the travel market: Citizens are increasingly taking a more active role in tailoring their holidays to their specific requirements, notably by using the internet to combine travel arrangements rather than choosing from ready-made packages out of a brochure (see Graphic 1 in the Annex).
Today's rules are difficult to apply in the internet age where consumers are increasingly booking customised packages online (either from one trader or several commercially linked traders) – which leaves buyers uncertain if they can count on protection and traders unclear of their obligations. Therefore, today's update of the 1990 rules is essentially about bringing the Package Travel Directive into the digital age. It means that an additional 120 million consumers who buy these customised travel arrangements will also be protected by the directive.
The reform further bolsters protection for consumers by increasing transparency and strengthening protection in case something goes wrong. Businesses will also benefit as the Commission is scrapping outdated information requirements such as the need to reprint brochures and making sure that national insolvency protection schemes are recognised across borders.
“In the 1990s, most Europeans picked out a pre-arranged package deal from a brochure and booked it at their local travel agent,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “Since then, European legislation has helped millions of people enjoy stress-free holidays. But times have changed and we need to update the rules to keep pace with a changing market. EU package travel rules need to be fit for the digital age and meet consumers' expectations. Today we are boosting protection for millions of consumers booking customised travel arrangements. The EU is acting to provide a safety net and peace of mind for holiday makers if something goes wrong.”
In addition to extending existing protection to customised packages, the reform brings new benefits for consumers and businesses.
For buyers of traditional and customised packages, today’s proposal will bring:
stricter controls on price surcharges (with a 10% cap on price increases) and a requirement to pass on price reductions in equivalent circumstances
improved cancellation rights: Consumers will enjoy more flexibility by being able to terminate the contract before leaving home and paying the organiser a reasonable compensation. They will also be able to cancel the contract, free of charge, before departure in the event of natural disasters, civil unrest, or similar serious situations at the destination that would affect the holiday, when, e.g. the embassies give negative travel advices.
better information on liability: in a plain and intelligible language consumers will need to be informed that the organiser is responsible for the proper performance of all included services – whereas today diverging national rules concerning the responsible party (organiser, retailer or both) lead to a situation where organisers and retailers refer the consumer to the other party, neither of them taking responsibility.
better redress: in addition to price reductions in case a travel service has not been performed as it should have been, consumers can also claim compensation for any 'immaterial damage' suffered, in particular in case of a spoilt holiday
a single contact point if something goes wrong: Consumers will be able to addresscomplaints or claims directly to the retailer (travel agent) from whom they bought their holiday.
For buyers of other customised travel arrangements, today's proposal entails:
- a right to get their money back and be repatriated, if needed, in case the seller, the carrier or any other relevant service provider goes bankrupt while they are on holiday,
better information about who is liable for the performance of each service.
For businesses today's proposal will cut red tape and compliance costs by:
- creating a level playing field between different operators,
abolishing outdated requirements to reprint brochures, thereby saving tour operators and travel agents an estimated €390 million per year,
excluding managed business travel from the Directive, which is expected to lead to savings of up to € 76 million per year,
- providing EU-wide rules on information, liability and mutual recognition of national insolvency protection schemes,thus facilitating cross-border trade.