Abta cautiously welcomes latest EU package law proposals

Abta cautiously welcomes latest EU package law proposalsBy Phil Davies

Abta has given a “cautious response” to an important milestone in the review of the European Package Travel Directive by the European Parliament.The association welcomed some key proposals from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee including:

  • Exclusion of general right of withdrawal (a ‘cooling-off’ period) from the scope of the directive;
  • Support for ensuring that travel agents in the UK do not take on the liabilities of organisers;
  • Support for simplifying the exemption of some business travel sales from the directive.

But Abta said that more work needs to done on other aspects of the current draft proposals to ensure they are fair and workable.

The association is particularly concerned that as currently set out in the wording of the text some holiday sales by way of linked websites, notably by airlines, may not fall within the scope of the directive.

Abta believes the inclusion of this type of arrangement is critical to ensuring an effective and consistent extension of consumer protection that is fair for travel businesses.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We are closely reviewing the details of this committee’s review of the directive and we are very pleased that it has made some sensible recommendations in a number of important areas that Abta has been actively fighting for in Brussels.

“We have focused on explaining to MEPs that a consumer cooling off period would be unworkable for the industry and ultimately bad for consumers.

“A key focus of our work has been to argue that UK travel agents should be able to remain agents if they are selling someone else’s package and the proposal on the liability clause in the text supports this important principle.

“We are also making progress on ensuring managed business travel is excluded from the directive, although as with much of the text there is still work to be done.”

He added: “We believe that the directive needs further revisions, particularly to capture linked sales from one website to another, if it is to be extended in a truly effective and consistent way for the benefit of consumers and the industry as a whole.

“Abta will continue its work with parliamentarians in Brussels to argue this point. The text has been greatly improved but there is still much work for MEPs and Abta to do as we go into the next stage of review.”

Yesterday’s vote will be followed by a plenary vote scheduled for next month.

The trade will have a better understanding of the direction of the directive after this date although there are will still be opportunities to make amendments.

If the directive does not pass all its stages by the time of the European elections in May, there are various options available to continue to review the proposals in the new Parliament, subject to parliamentary votes and Member State agreements.

EU countries will have a two-year window to implement the directive in national law.

It is likely that there would need to be amendments made to the existing Package Travel Regulations and to Atol regulations in the UK.

The exact nature of the changes required will be dependent upon the final text of the directive and harmonisation levels, which are not certain at present, according to Abta.

The UK government is expected to consult further on any changes it proposes to make in the process of implementing the directive into UK law.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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