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Stronger EU protection rules for travellers

From July 1 new EU rules have come into force to provide better legal protection for travellers who either purchase pre-arranged package holidays or self customised packages.

The new regulations have broadened the concept of what constitutes a ‘package holiday’. While the pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following still applies – transport, accommodation and other tourist service not related to transport or accommodation but accounts for a significant proportion of the holiday – what is now also included in the concept of package holiday are linked travel arrangements.

A linked travel arrangement takes place when, for example, a traveller books a flight on a website and through the same website is invited to book another travel-related service on a different website. If the second booking is made within 24 hours, then the purchase is covered by the Package Travel Regulations as a linked travel arrangement.

When purchasing such holidays travellers have the right to be informed by businesses whether they have purchased a package holiday or a linked travel arrangement.

The new regulations have broadened the concept of what constitutes a ‘package holiday’

Travellers must also be clearly informed about their key rights through standardised information forms. Consumers must also be clearly informed about the features and characteristics of the package they are about to purchase and also about the total cost of the holiday, including any additional charges.

The new regulations provide additional protection in case of bankruptcy to travellers who purchase linked travel arrangements. If the provider of the first service in the linked travel arrangement goes bankrupt, the consumer is not only entitled to a full refund but, where applicable, also to repatriation.

In situations where the traveller’s name, e-mail address and payment details are transmitted from the first website to the second, then the full protection of a package holiday applies. This means that if there are any problems with the services booked, the organiser of the package is liable and is therefore legally obliged to provide a suitable remedy to the consumer, such as making suitable alternative arrangements at no extra cost for the consumer.

The new regulations also provide stronger cancellation rights for travellers. While the old regulations only allowed consumers to transfer bookings if they are unable to proceed with the holiday, the new rules allow travellers to cancel their package holiday for any reason by paying a reasonable fee. Consumers may also cancel their holiday if the package price is raised over eight per cent of the original price, even if this increase is related to transport costs, taxes or the exchange rate.

In situations where the return journey cannot be carried out, due, for instance, to natural disasters, the new rules give travellers up to three nights of free accommodation.

If the return journey is delayed for a longer period of time, additional rights are covered in line with the relevant passenger rights regulations.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

odette.vella@mccaa.org.mt

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