EU Ministers in the Competitiveness Council reached a political agreement on 28 May concerning a set of rules aimed at extending protection for holidaymakers. According to Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, this move will bridge the gap that now exists between package holidays and the demands of the new digital age: “This is why new EU rules will soon cover over 120 million holidaymakers who book combined travel online, adapting the EU rules on package travel to the digital age. Travelers will clearly know what they are buying and what their rights are, especially if something goes wrong during their holidays.”
The new rules will lead to wider coverage, targeting not only traditional package holidays but also providing protection to the 120 million consumers looking to book other forms of combined travel. These self-chosen combinations, especially when done online, are left unprotected by the 1990 EU Package Travel Directive.
As underlined in the European Commission press release, when implemented, the new legal requirements will do a lot for both consumers and businesses alike. Under the new arrangements, travelers will be able to cancel their holiday free of change if the providers decide to increase the package price by more than 8%. Free cancelation will also be possible under exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.
When something goes awry with your holiday, it tends to get confusing when it comes to recognizing the liable party. This is bound to change once the new rules come into force; in all EU member states the organizers of the package will be solely responsible to deal with the problem. The same goes for traders who make booking errors regarding packages and travel arrangements.
Consumers will also be better informed. The new rules demand that organizers offer support to distressed travelers both with clearer information and assistance making alternative travel plans, and even additional accommodation if need be. Also for the wariest of us, there is even more to feel relieved about. In case your package organizer goes bankrupt you will get your money back, as financial responsibilities will now extend to all travel arrangements included in the package. Facilitators of said arrangements will have to secure your refund and repatriation in case of bankruptcy.
Businesses will see the new measures playing out to their advantage as well. The common set of rules that will apply to everyone within the European Union means that business across the EU will be competing on a level playing field. The modernized rules will help stave off overregulation, as requirements, including insolvency schemes, force companies to standardize and recognize rules in all of the 28 member states.
Don’t expect the change to happen overnight. The sensible approach to EU legislative process tells us that this summer, and very likely the next two, we will be traveling under the same provisions. We can only expect to take full advantage of the new rules once the European Parliament endorses the agreement in June, followed by the Council’s formal approval due to happen sometime in September or October. Only then will the member states be compelled to implement the new rules, and they will have a full two years to do so. Businesses then will have a further 6 months to adapt and comply.