The European Commission (EC) published a couple of days ago a series of proposals aimed at strengthening the rights of travelers and removing the illogicality that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, stirred up the travel industry three years ago.
After the collapse of Thomas Cook and the COVID-19 pandemic, the revealed shortcomings of the legal framework, primarily in terms of liability for refunds in the event of extraordinary circumstances that could not be avoided, prescribed by the EU Directive on package holidays and related travel arrangements from 2015, required a strong legislative response.
Over the past two years, the EC has considered the possibilities of revising the provisions of the Directive with the intention of better and more transparently protecting consumers, but also more evenly distributing the burden of responsibility within the chain of service providers involved in the realization of package arrangements.
The Commission's proposals for the revision of the Directive include:
- Limiting advance payments to 25% of the value of the package, with the possibility of charging larger amounts if so agreed with the supplier who is directly involved in the execution of the contracted services
- The possibility of charging the full price of the package deal only 28 days before the start of the trip
- A 7-day deadline for refunds to tour operators from transportation service providers if the travel service is canceled or not provided, so that tour operators can issue refunds to travelers within 14 days (B2B refunds)
- Amendment and expansion of the definition of package arrangements and related travel arrangements
- Voucher as a means of making returns with special rules for application
- More obligations for merchants offering linked travel arrangements
- Taking into account the situation at the place of departure / return (e.g. in case of quarantine upon return) when canceling a package deal
Reactions to the proposed revision of the Directive are divided.
On the one hand, we welcome the fact that the Directive will finally regulate the issue of the responsibility of service providers, but on the other hand, no limitation is imposed on them for the collection of advance payments as travel organizers who, even with this second revision of the Directive, will continue to be the only link in the chain of service providers that is obliged to provide protection against insolvency.
In addition to the revision of the EU Directive on package deals and related travel arrangements from 2015, the Commission's initiative also includes amendments to the Passenger Rights Regulation with amendments in relation to all types and types of transport (multimodality). The new rules should clarify compensation issues when, for example, flights or multimodal trips are canceled through an intermediary, and provide travelers with access to direct real-time support when it comes to, for example, delays and cancellations of reservations. The Commission places special emphasis on the needs of passengers with disabilities and/or reduced mobility in terms of the mode of transport and the quality of assistance where it is needed.
In line with the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility, the Commission also proposes the creation of a 'Common European Mobility Data Space' which will facilitate the access and exchange of transport data for both businesses and passengers. The goal is to encourage member states to proactively monitor situations that may threaten freedom of movement and travel, and not to react only when problems arise.
With this announcement, the Commission has formally opened the procedure for adopting the proposed legal proposals, but the opening of the debate in the EU Parliament is not expected before the third quarter of next year, when that body should resume its work after the elections.
More information about the Commission's legislative initiative is available here, and you can read the full text of the proposed revision of the EU Directive on package deals and related travel arrangements here.
Source: UHPA / ECTAA / European Commission