ABTA has drafted new Model Booking Conditions which operators can use in their brochures to ensure compliance with laws governing unfair contract terms.

One of the most controversial changes to the conditions is the introduction of a cooling-off period which would allow holidaymakers’ some time to change their mind and cancel the holiday without charge.

ABTA legal advisor Simon Bunce said such clauses were common in other industries and said there was no reason why it would not work effectively in travel to protect companies in the event of litigation.

The wording of the clause states: “If you had not seen these terms and conditions when you made your booking and you are not happy to proceed with the booking now that you have seen them please return all documentation to us or to your travel agent, within seven days of receiving these booking conditions. Your booking will be cancelled and your monies will be returned in full, provided you have not commenced with your travel.”

According to Bunce, this type of clause was useful given that the rise in bookings by telephone has meant that an increasing number of clients never even see the operator’s brochure. “One of the basic points of contract law is that both parties have to agree what the terms of the contract are.

“Before you reject the idea, think how many consumers are going to reject your Terms and Conditions and cancel the holiday,” he said.

However, Bunce stressed that there was no obligation on ABTA members to use the Model Booking Conditions.