Not only will traditional package holidays be covered, the new rules will also protect consumers who book other forms of combined travel, including self-customised packages, where the traveller chooses different elements from a single point of sale online or offline. The new rules will also introduce protection for 'linked travel arrangements' when the traveller purchases travel services at one point of sale, but through separate booking processes, or, after having booked one travel service on one website, is invited to book another service on a different website.
Vӗra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: "Booking your holidays online is easy, but if something goes wrong you want to be sure to be fully protected. The new package travel rules are now adapted to the digital age and the new ways of booking holidays. Travellers will also benefit from new rights and be well protected in case the operator goes bankrupt. The new rules will also make it easier for travel businesses to offer their services cross-border."
The new rules will benefit consumers even more with:
- Clearer information for travellers: Businesses must inform travellers whether they are offered a package or linked travel arrangement, and on their key rights through standardised information forms. They must provide clear information on the features and characteristics of the package, its price and any additional charges.
- Money-back and repatriation in case of bankruptcy: Companies selling package holidays must take out insolvency protection. This guarantee covers refunds and repatriation in case organisers go bankrupt. This guarantee also applies to linked travel arrangements.
- Clearer rules on liability: The organiser of the package is liable if something goes wrong, no matter who performs the travel services.
- Stronger cancellation rights: With the new rules, travellers may cancel their package holiday for any reason by paying a reasonable fee. They may cancel their holiday, free of charge should their destination become dangerous for example because of war or natural disasters, or if the package price is raised over 8% of the original price.
- Accommodation if the return journey cannot be carried out: Where travellers cannot return from their package holidays, for instance in the case of natural disasters, travellers are granted accommodation for up to three nights if they cannot return from their holiday on time. Additional nights are covered in line with the relevant passenger rights regulations.
- Assistance to travellers: The package organiser must also provide assistance to travellers in difficulty, in particular, by providing information on health services and consular assistance.
The new rules will also benefit businesses, with:
- Clearer rules, making cross-border activities easier: Businesses will now have to deal with one set of rules on information requirements, liability and other obligations across the EU. National insolvency schemes are now also recognised across the EU. These measures will allow companies to operate across the EU as if they were at home.
- Modernised information requirements no longer based exclusively on travel brochures: the fact that traders will not have to reprint brochures is expected to save them €390 million per year.
- Reduced regulatory burden: Business travel arranged under a framework agreement, for instance with a specialised travel agency, will no longer be covered by the Directive.
Member States had to implement the rules in national legislation by 1 January 2018. There was then a six-month transition period, until 1 July, which is the date when the national measures transposing the Directive will start applying. The Commission will examine how the rules have been transposed and are applied in the Member States. It will take appropriate follow-up measures as necessary.
To extend the protection offered by the 1990 EU Package Travel Directive, the Commission made the proposal in July 2013, which was formally adopted by the European Parliament and Member States in November 2015. These new rules were to be transposed by Member States by 1 January 2018. As of 1 July, these rules are applicable in the Member States.
The new rules apply to combinations of at least two types of travel services (transport, accommodation, car rental or other services, for example guided tours) including:
- packages, such asready-made holidays from a tour operator as well as now also customised selection of components by the traveller bought from a single online or offline point of sale;
- linked travel arrangements, for instance, when the traveller purchases travel services at one point of sale, but through separate booking processes, or, after having booked one travel service on one website, is invited to book another service on a different website, provided that the second booking is made within 24 hours.