More travel protection

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the new directive should give greater protection to those buying package holidays

the new directive should give greater protection to those buying package holidays

Fifteen years is a long time in the travel industry. Then, we used to troop into travel agents almost as soon as Boxing Day started, collect or plough through brochures and then book holidays with a package tour operator like ILG, Thomson or Thomas Cook.

That was when the EU’s directive on package holidays came into force and it has taken all this time for agreement to be reached on an updated version that takes into account that many of us now book online, that we buy a flight here and accommodation elsewhere or use links within a booking process to buy other features as well such as insurance, car-hire or excursions.

The new directive was approved by the EU parliament this week and gives additional rights to consumers. Up until now, if a travel agent sold you a holiday that included flight and accommodation you had some protection. That didn’t necessarily apply if you bought it online. Now, for example, if you buy an airline ticket directly from an airline and up pops a screen saying what about a hotel or car hire or an excursion then if you buy it from the one website or that offer is linked to that original website then there will be some protection.

But under the new rules protection is limited to where the holiday provider is based not the country in which the holiday is sold. For argument, if XYZ Holidays is based in a south Pacific island but sells you a holiday in Turkey and you are based in the UK, under existing rules you would come under UK/EU law. Under the new directive, it is the law in the country in which the company is based that will prevail. And what protection laws will be in that south Pacific island? The advice will be that, if the law stays as it stands, be careful with whom you book in case their protection is much less than those offered by holiday companies domiciled in the EU.

there is another useful feature to the directive. If the price of the package holiday increases by more than 8%, after booking, the traveller has the right to cancel their holiday free of charge. The seller is also required to pass on price reductions to the consumer.

Remember as well, that if you buy a flight from one source, accommodation for another and car hire forom yet a third, you will not be covered. Travel insurance is still a must.

I have complained in these columns before at how long it has taken for this new directive to appear. It will still be a while because member states – and that includes the UK and Ireland – have until October 2017 to adopt the directive into their law.

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