ABTA is advocating a very radical overhaul of consumer protection in the travel industry. In compiling its response to the European Commission’s consultation on the Package Travel Directive, ABTA has consulted widely with its membership, which includes tour operators and travel agents, and accounts for most outbound UK leisure travel.
ABTA Members overwhelmingly believe that consumer protection should be extended and clarified. The growth in travel arrangements that fall outside the legal definition of a package holiday has resulted in many customers travelling without the benefit of financial protection. The confusion over legal definitions has also created cost and uncertainty for the industry as it seeks to comply with current legislation.
The refusal of Government to countenance a protection system that would encompass all flights has allowed the current situation to persist, creating customer detriment and distorting fair competition in the market.
The ABTA submission to the European consultation advocates that the scope of customer protection should be extended to include all linked leisure travel arrangements, including ‘click-through’ arrangements bought on the internet. The travel organiser who assembles and sells such arrangements should be responsible for the protection of the customer’s money, the provision of accurate and sufficient information, and the provision of the holiday services.
The ABTA Members were clear, however, that where a Travel Agent is purely acting to sell another organiser’s package or linked arrangements, no such responsibility would arise for the agent.
ABTA is also using the PTD and other consultations to reinforce its belief that full protection will only be finally achieved when scheduled airlines are brought into a system of consumer protection.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “I am delighted that we had such a full response to the questionnaire on the Package Travel Directive review. This Review forms part of Europe’s biggest regulatory overhaul in travel for twenty years. Structural changes in the industry linked to the rise of the no-frills carriers and the growth of the internet, has meant that current legislation has become increasingly outdated and irrelevant to the majority of international travellers in the EU.
The clear desire of ABTA members to increase the scope of protection will be a major step forward for consumers, and will remove market distortions..”
The deadline for responding to the Consultation is 7 February, and ABTA is encouraging members to submit their own individual responses as well to the European Commission at http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/rights/travel/consultation_en.htm.