Revision of the package travel Directive - Adaptation to COVID-19 context

In “A New Push for European Democracy”

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On 29 November 2023, the Commission adopted a proposal for a directive amending Directive (EU) 2015/2302 to make the protection of travelers more effective and to simplify and clarify certain aspects of the Directive.

The proposal has been prepared taking into account the evaluation of the current Directive, published in 2021. It he evaluation concluded that the Directive still has EU added value. This evaluation had concluded that, while the Directive objectives are in line with the expected needs of travelers and package travel organisers/retailers, developments in the relevant markets, such as digitalisation, or the shortcomings faced by consumer during the COVID-19 pandemic, would call for an update of the provisions.

Several interactions were held with stakeholders between 2021 and 2023 have substantiated further those claims.

Based on Article 114 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (approximation of laws), the overarching goal of the proposal is to strengthen the level of consumer protection,  including in the event of a major crisis, while improving the functioning of the
internal market in the package travel sector.

Article 1 on the subject matter and Article 2 on the scope of the Directive are amended to allow for the extension of the rules included in the Directive also to certain aspects of the contracts between organisers of packages and service providers.

Article 3 on the definitions is amended to simplify the respective notions of a package travel and of a linked travel arrangement. The definition of a package travel under Article 3(2) would now always ensure that the purchase of at least two services from separate traders would qualify as a package when such a purchase is done through linked online bookings processes where the relevant personal data of the travellers would be transmitted from the first trader to the subsequent(s). The new definition of a linked travel arrangement under Article 3(5) is  narrowed. It would correspond to a combination of different types of travel services, not qualifying as a package, whenever following the payment of a first travel service, following the invitation of the trader, the consumer would buy an additional type of travel services from another traders at the latest 24 hours following the confirmation of the booking of the first contract.

Another set of amendments improve the information to be provided to the travellers from before the conclusion of any contract until following its conclusion, especially in the case of changes or of a cancellation. With the introduction of a new Article 5a on payments, Member States would be obliged to ensure that the retailer should not require the payment of a down payment higher than 25% of the total price, except for packages booked less than 28 days before their start, or those packages defined at Article 3(2) point b) (iv). Article 5 on pre contractual amendment is also amended to include a reference to the new Article 5a, but also to reinforce consumer protection at Article 5(1) point (g).

Article 12 on the termination of the package travel contract and the right of withdrawal before the start of the package is amended. Article 12(2) extends the geographical outbreak of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances also to the place of the traveller’s residence or departure, or to similar circumstances affecting the journey. Article 12(4) is also amended to specify that any termination fee should be also justifiable, and to provide that the refund or reimbursement to the traveller in 14 days would also apply to those who do not specifically ask for such a refund or reimbursement. A new Article 12a on vouchers is introduced. It would apply to the events mentioned at Article 10 on alteration of the price, Article 11 on alteration of other package travel contract terms, and Article 12 on termination before the start of the package. Travellers could be given in writing the choice to accept a voucher, corresponding to at least the amount of the refund right. Travellers would lose their right to a refund during the validity period of the voucher only if they would accept explicitly and in writing to accept such voucher instead of a refund. The voucher would have a validity of 12 months from the moment when it would be accepted explicitly by the traveller.

 Article 17 on the effectiveness and scope of insolvency protection is amended at Article 17(1) to include also the refunds and vouchers to which the travellers have been entitled before the insolvency of the organiser. Also, the organisers not established in a Member States should be obliged to provide the security mentioned at Article 17 in accordance with the law of that Member States. Article 17(2) is amended to specify that this security should be sufficient to cover all the costs associated to the refunds, repatriations and vouchers at all time. Article 17(3) is amended to provide for Member States to supervise the insolvency protection arrangements of organisers. Any co-financing by Member States of such arrangements should be possible only in exceptional and justified circumstances, pursuant with the Union State aid provisions. Article 19 on insolvency protection and information requirements for linked travel arrangements is amended in accordance with the new scope provided for at Article 3(5), and to ensure its alignment with the amended Article 17. 

Article 22 on the right of redress and refund rights of organisers is amended to include a new Article 22(2) which would create an obligation to a service provider that would not provide a service part of the package to refund the organiser with the payment received, within seven days.

The file  has been referred to the Committee on internal market and consumer protection (IMCO), Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Malta) has been appointed rapporteur.

In the Council, the file is examined in the working party on consumer protection.

References:

Author: Clément Evroux, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/05/2024.