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European Commission

Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice

Modernising EU rules on Package Travel: Plan your summer holiday with peace of mind

Press Conference /Brussels

9 July 2013

Summer is finally here! Millions of holidaymakers are about to leave for a well-earned break. Thanks to EU consumer protection rules, many travellers booking package holidays can leave with peace of mind. I want to extend that protection to millions more holidaymakers – wherever they are planning to go on holiday.

As the summer season kicks off, the European Commission is proposing today to modernise EU rules on package holidays. We are bringing the Package Travel Directive into the digital age. This means: protection for an extra 120 million of package travellers.

Don't forget that thanks to EU rules on package travel, consumers are protected today when booking pre-arranged package holidays, such as combinations of flights, hotels, or car rentals. The EU Package Travel Directive has been a milestone in consumer protection making sure that consumers can still get home if the travel agent goes bust. This EU law has been in place since 1990 helping millions of people enjoy stress-free holidays.

But since 1990, the way people book their holidays has changed – you don't see as many people picking out a pre-arranged deal from a brochure and booking it at their high street travel agent.

Nowadays, people are using the internet to actively put together their travel arrangements.

23% of holidaymakers still book traditional packages but another 23% are buying a new form of package, "customised holidays" where, for example, consumers might book transport and a hotel from the same operator, or rent a car via the website where they booked their flight.

Today's rules either simply do not cover such arrangements, or do so only in an ambiguous manner, leaving consumers unsure of their rights and traders unclear of their obligations.

As a result, holidaymakers are uncertain if they can count on EU protection if something goes wrong. And for traders, unclear obligations don't provide a level playing field for fair competition.

Therefore, today's update of the 1990 rules is 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 EU rules on Package Travel. There will be no more legal grey zones: The new Directive will clarify which travel arrangements are covered and which aren't.

1/ Improving consumer rights for holidaymakers

At the same time, we are further boosting protection for consumers. Under the revised rules holidaymakers will enjoy:

Clear information. Consumers will be told exactly what kind of product they are buying and what kind of protection is included in their travel arrangement.

Stricter controls on price surcharges. Changes to the final price after consumers have signed a contract should be the exception. But if they occur, they need to be predictable and fair. That's why the Commission is not only proposing a 10% cap on price increases; we are also asking that it's not only price increases that are passed on but also price reductions which could for example result from reductions in fuel charges, landing taxes or embarkation and disembarkation fees at ports and airports. After all, it's not fair to rip off customers when it comes to the most precious time of the year!

Better termination rights. Unplanned events can and do occur before departure. The new rules aim to reflect this reality, to give package travellers the possibility to terminate the contract before they leave on holiday against a fair amount of compensation to cover the organiser's costs. Consumers 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, for example when national authorities advise against travelling to a specific destination.

Last but not least there will be a single contact point if something goes wrong: Consumers will be able to address complaints or claims directly to the retailer (the travel agent) from whom they bought their holiday. We all know how much headache it can cause to figure out who can help you out in case the quality of travel services is not up to what it says on paper.

For consumers today's proposal means better protection and more protection. And it means a better deal for businesses too. For three reasons:

2/ Better for business, too:

First, we are scrapping outdated information requirements. For example, operators will no longer have to reprint brochures every time a detail changes. We estimate that this will save tour operators and travel agents around €390 million per year.

Second, we are removing internal market barriers. For example, the new rules will make sure that national insolvency protection schemes are recognised across borders. Therefore businesses will avoid unnecessary costs when operating cross- border.

And third: We are excluding managed business travel from the Directive, which is expected to lead to savings of up to € 76 million per year.

What we are doing today is therefore very simple: boosting protection for millions of consumers booking customised travel arrangements. We are providing a safety net and peace of mind for holiday makers if something goes wrong.

I count on the European Parliament and the Council to deliver this reform swiftly. It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. Holiday-makers need to know for sure that if something goes wrong they will not be left stranded.

This reform will strengthen protection for holidaymakers and give them reassurance that if things go wrong they will be brought home with the minimum of fuss.

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