New Commissioners / Speech Kuneva

Meglena Kuneva, the leaving commissioner for Consumer Policy held a press conference regarding the “Revision of the Package Travel Directive” (see below)Along the way: The new designated commissioner for Consumer Policy is John Dalli (MT) and for Transport (and as VicePresident) Siim Kallas (EE) Press conference speaking points Brussels, 26 November 2009 SPEECH/09/559Ladies and gentleman, It is my great pleasure today to announce that we intend to review the current EU rules on package travel to give millions of consumers better protection if their holiday goes wrong. Why do we feel that the current rules need a makeover? First of all, our current EU law on package travel – the Package Travel Directive – was written almost 20 years ago, in 1990. Back in those days, millions of European holidaymakers picked their package holiday from a glossy brochure and booked at a travel agent on the local high street. The Package Travel insisted on: – clear information in brochures, – gave people the right to assistance if they had difficulties on the spot, – gave them protection for substandard services, – And it put in place insolvency protection if the tour operator or airline went bust. But the 1990 Package Travel Directive is no longer suited for today’s travel market. Increasingly large volumes of bookings are made by consumers putting together their own packages, often online. Today, 56% of EU citizens organise their holidays themselves, so the number of those opting for a traditional pre-arranged package has fallen dramatically. Just to give you one example, in 1997, 98 % of passengers travelling from the UK on leisure flights were protected by the Directive, now less than 50% are protected. Fewer and fewer people are getting the holiday protection they deserve. That is NOT good enough. There are 3 main areas I want to focus on in this review: 1. The first, is the central issue of the Scope of the Directive. Simply put, which of new kinds of package holidays should be covered by EU protection? Most pressingly, we need to look at adapting the rules to take account of the “next generation” of “dynamic packages”. This is where consumers make up their own package choosing two or more services, for example a flight and a hotel, either from one supplier – like Expedia or Opodo. Or from different suppliers that are commercially linked. In the past 2 years, almost 1 in 4 EU citizens have booked these new “dynamic packages.” In some countries, like Sweden and Ireland, the figure is as high as 40%! My starting point is that we should look to extend the protection in the current directive as far as possible to cover all the new kinds of ‘dynamic packages.’ That way, we can provide more legal certainty for businesses and tough protection for consumers. Of course we are looking forward to getting detailed feedback from industry and all stakeholders before taking final decisions on this issue. Package Travel Label Speaking of legal certainty, I want to draw your attention particularly, to the new ‘Travel Protection Label’ which we are considering introducing. The idea is to have a logo which makes it absolutely clear for consumers and businesses which holidays are covered by this Package Holiday Protection. I hope that this initiative will gain widespread support during the consultation. 2. Legal Responsibility The second big issue we need to get right in this consultation is the issue of legal responsibility. Simply put, who is responsible for what when things go wrong? Is it the carrier, is it the travel agent, is it the tour operator? Today the old distinctions between carriers, tour operators and travel agents are often blurred. It is often not all that clear who is actually responsible for making sure that everything that is the holiday contract which the consumer signs has been properly carried out. We urgently need to clarify these legal responsibilities. 3. Insolvency Finally, I want to come to the critical issue of protection for consumers in the case of insolvency – in particular, what do when airlines go bust. I know that many of you, like me, will have watched with great concern the TV pictures, as Sky Europe, XL, Future, Zoom and other airlines went bankrupt in recent months and years. Thousands of airline passengers were stranded in airports across Europe, with worthless tickets, unable to get home. Like me, I am sure many of you watched with dismay and thought, how can this be legal? How can this be right? Bankruptcy has become an increasing concern for European consumers. The rise of airline insolvencies has grown substantially. Between November 2005 and September 2008 alone, 29 airlines went bust. In far too many cases European consumers found themselves “left out in the cold” unprotected and with no way of getting home. Now is the right time to the ask the tough questions about the need to extend basic protection against airline bankruptcy to consumers across the board, including to stand alone airline tickets. Ladies and gentlemen, I Iook forward with great interest to getting feedback from industry, consumer organisations and the public on this consultation. Armed with that feedback, I am confident we can get the right solutions and deliver: more low cost holidays; more competition; and more value for money and choice for consumers. Thank you, now I am happy to take any questions you might have.

Leave a Comment