Consumer Rights were reinforced by the introduction of the Package Holiday Regulations, which imposes liability on the tour operator for any failure to suitably perform any aspect of the contract. This means the tour operator takes responsibility for flights, accommodation, transfers etc, even if it was not their fault directly. As the name suggests, these regulations only apply to holidays booked as a package and consumers who book travel and accommodation separately are not afforded this protection. The regulations dictate that:
- Specific information related to accommodation, meals, itinerary, price, deposit etc must be included in the brochure, and these shall be legally binding. Changes to these particulars may be made but the consumer must be informed of them before the contract is concluded
- Essential information (such as passport or visa requirements, health precautions and repatriation in event of insolvency) must be provided to the customer before the contract is concluded.
- Price will be fixed unless the contract specifically states how the revised price is to be calculated
- In the event that the operator becomes insolvent, they must still have enough to refund or repatriate any consumers affected.
Complaints & Remedies
As with other consumer legislation, failure on the part of the operator to comply with the terms of the contract will enable the consumer to claim damages. This refers not just to the cost of any additional expenses the consumer has made, but compensation for mental distress, upset, disappointment and injury to feelings.
In order to make a complaint, there will usually be a procedure offered by the tour operator and will usually consist of a complaints form or the requirement to put it in writing. One thing is important however, the remedies offered to the consumer under these regulations require complaints to be made quickly – i.e immediately after (if not during) the holiday.
Trade Association Assistance
If the complaint has not been dealt with to the consumer’s satisfaction in the first instance by the tour operator, the consumer may take their case to the relevant trade body (e.g ABTA; AITO) who have a dispute resolution service. Additionally, if a credit card was used to pay for the holiday, consumers can also take advantage of Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act which imposes equal liability on the credit card provider for any claims.
Statutory entitlements for flight delays
For all travellers who experience flight delays are automatically entitled to monetary compensation for overbooking (where they are ‘bumped off), and compensation ‘in kind’ for delays due to late arrivals and technical faults – these are refreshments, free telephone calls etc. For further details on this go to the CAA website (www.caa.co.uk)