Consumer Protection for tailor-made holidays booked online
There are changes in the pipeline for holidaymakers putting together tailor-made trips online. European Legislators have reached an agreement on new laws to cover tailor-made holidays where flights, accommodation and car hire at the same time. Everyday Legal has been finding out what these changes mean for you.
Current consumer protection
For package holidays (a flight and accommodation sold as a single transaction by a tour operator) under The Package Travel Regulations 1992 you have a wide range of protection
- eg: financial protection if the holiday firm goes bust
- eg: the holiday firm has to ensure that every part of your holiday from the moment it begins to the time you reach home is provided as promised. If anything goes wrong then the holiday company is obliged to put things right.
For tailor-made holidays you’re currently in a much weaker position if things go wrong. The ATOL scheme confers protection if your holiday firm goes bankrupt giving you a full refund. Flight-Plus where a consumer books a flight with accommodation and / or car hire at the same time or within a day gives limited financial protection. If a supplier goes bankrupt the Flight-Plus arranger will be required to make sure you’re not out of pocket. They must give you an alternative flight, hotel or car-hire arrangements for your holiday. If this isn’t possible or isn’t suitable for you (for good reasons), they must give you a full refund. If the cost of the replacement flight, hotel or car hire is cheaper than the original booking you must be paid the difference and you must be compensated for reasonable expenses if one of the companies involved in your booking stops operating. If you also book other services with your flight and hotel or car hire these are also likely to be covered if one of the companies goes under.
If you are already on holiday the company you bought your holiday from must make alternative arrangements so you can finish your holiday and return home. If not you must be offered a refund. If the company you booked your holiday through goes out of business completely the Civil Aviation Authority will make sure you’re not out of pocket – if you are abroad you should be able to finish your holiday and travel home, if you have a booking in the future you should be able to use an alternative company or get a full refund.
The European Parliament announced a set of proposals covering online travel agents booking tailor-made trips giving them much of the same protection as package holidays. Also if the price of the holiday rises by 8 per cent or more you’ll have the option to cancel with a full refund.
There are still some areas where this protection won’t apply. If you buy a flight online and then click through from the airline’s website to another company for car-hire or accommodation or both it may be that legally you’re not covered as you haven’t booked through one company. In this case the Assisted Travel Arrangements may apply which will only offer you limited protection.
When will these new rules take effect?
The target date for implementation is 2017 although it could take longer than that. Until then, if you want to be fully covered buy a proper package holiday or be aware of the protection restrictions if you book a tailor-made trip.