The new directive will update current EU rules on package holidays by aiming to adapt to travel market developments in order to meet the needs of consumers and businesses in the digital era.
Current rules for package travel are difficult to apply in the digital age where consumers are increasingly booking customised packages online, either from one trader or several traders commercially linked. This often leaves buyers uncertain about their level of protection and traders unclear about their obligations.
For that reason, the new directive will extend the protection for traditional packages to combinations of separate travel services, in particular if sold online.
Furthermore, the new rules will increase transparency and strengthen consumer protection in relation to:
- packages where two or more travel services are purchased either from the same trader on a website or from a high street travel agent under one contract;
- "click-through" sales where two or more services are purchased from multiple on-line traders under separate contracts but where the traveller's name, e-mail address and payment details are transferred directly between traders within 24 hours; and
- linked travel arrangements, where at least two different travel services which are sold by a trader facilitating the travel arrangements for the purpose of the same trip or holiday.
The future directive will contain other main features such as:
Improved pre-contractual information requirements. Before the conclusion of the package travel contract the traveller will be entitled to get clear and concise information on the main rights and obligations including specific standard information on the envisaged package travel or corresponding offer.
Fairer and more predictable prices for package travels, with stricter controls on price changes (termination rights in case of price increase more than 8% and a requirement to pass on price reductions in equivalent circumstances).
Improved termination rights. Travellers will enjoy more flexibility by being able to terminate the contract before the start of the trip. In that case the traveller may be required to pay to the organiser an appropriate and justifiable termination fee. Travellers will be able to terminate the contract free of charge, before the departure in the event of natural disasters, civil unrest or similar serious situations at the destination that would significantly affect the holidays.
Higher protection in cases where the traveller's return is impossible because of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. Travellers will be entitled to compensation of up to three nights accommodation if they can not return home.
More effective rules on insolvency protection for travellers in case of the trader's insolvency. A network of central contact points in the member states will be created to facilitate cross-border cooperation.
Stricter liability of traders in case of underperformance of the package. The directive also lays down rules for cases of lack of conformity of the package, alternative arrangements, termination of the contract, repatriation or compensation of damages.
The new conditions will also favour a level playing field for businesses by harmonising rules, removing obstacles to cross-border trade. This will open up more opportunities for companies, particularly SMEs, to expand their activities across borders.
This will generate a broader choice for booking holiday products and may therefore lead to cheaper prices for consumers.