European Union: Parliament votes to extend protection for package holiday travellers

The current EU rules on package holidays date back to 1990. Since then, the growth in cheap flights and internet sales has significantly changed the way travellers plan and buy holidays. However, many of these holidays customised on the internet are not covered by the current rules and travellers risk ending up in a legal grey area which can be costly.The updated directive will broaden the definition of package holidays to encompass most types of travel arrangements made up of various elements, such as flights, hotel accommodation and car hire, so as to protect holidaymakers in the event of problems. MEPs also insist that travellers should be explicitly informed before they conclude a contract if their travel arrangement does not constitute a package and does not offer the same level of protection.The new draft rules approved by 610 votes to 58, with 13 abstentions, on March 12, 2014, should ensure that:Travellers are repatriated if their travel organiser goes bust while they are on holiday. If possible, travellers should have the option of continuing their trip before travelling home, MEPs say;Prices can only be raised after a sale is concluded for special reasons such as an increase in fuel prices or taxes. If the price is raised by more than 8% (the Commission proposed 10%), the traveller should be offered another holiday or be reimbursed;Organisers should not be able to change the flight times significantly, that is by more than three hours, after a sale is concluded.If “unavoidable” and “unforeseen” circumstances, such as natural disasters or a terrorist attack, make it impossible for the traveller to return home on time, the organiser has to arrange accommodation of a similar standard to the accommodation originally booked or alternatively pay for a stay of five nights costing up to €125 per night if the organiser is unable or unwilling to make a booking (the Commission proposal says three nights at no more than €100 a night).The vote closes the first reading and ensures that the new Parliament has a mandate for negotiations with member states on the final wording of the directive. Talks with member states are expected to begin after the elections in May.Source: European Parliament News; press release of marc 12, 2014; find full text here>>.

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