ABTA’s recommendations on the review of the Package Travel Regulations have kick-started a lively debate which is a healthy reaction to a fundamentally important raft of legislation.
If this review is to truly and fairly extend the scope of consumer protection then airlines who operate click-through bookings on their sites must be made to face up to their customer responsibilities.
We also believe that the European Commission’s review of passenger rights legislation means that the UK Government must at last address the area of flight-only sales by airlines – something which it has consistently refused to do.
Widening the scope of the regulations will create a clear mechanism for managing consumer financial risk, and this is a far better solution than companies simply relying on the passenger protection provided by credit cards under the Consumer Credit Act and chargeback facilities.
Travel companies are already finding it increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain merchant facilities, and this situation would deteriorate significantly if banks felt they were being treated as the primary source of financial protection.
Our submission to the review makes it clear that pure agent sales of others’ linked leisure arrangements should remain outside the scope of the directive, as should business travel.
For ABTA members who will be covered by the directive – which would be unlikely to take effect for several years – we can offer a range of services and products which will assist operationally and help reduce costs.
These include access to a database of audited properties and liability insurance specifically tailored for retailers doing up to 25% percent of principal business. We would clearly look to expand and improve any services as required.
This review of consumer protection in travel is long overdue. I and my colleagues will be working with all our members to make sure that the resulting system is workable and fair and durable.