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Review of the Package Travel Directive


Publication date: 11 February 2010


QUESTIONNAIRE FOR CONSUMER ORGANISATIONS  

BACKGROUND

 
The Package Travel Directive (hereafter referred to as the PTD), which came into effect in 1990, is aimed at protecting consumers in the area of package travel.  Some of the most important rules concern the liability of package organisers and retailers, who must accept responsibility for the performance of the services offered.  The Directive also prescribes the minimum information that must be given to consumers and contains provisions on the security to be provided in the event of insolvency.

The travel sector has evolved considerably, especially with the development of the internet and the rise of low-cost air carriers.  Consumers are also now putting together their own holiday components from different providers, instead of opting for pre-arranged packages.  The Commission is considering reviewing the PTD in order to reflect the current market situation.  This issue has already been the subject of number of studies and consultations available on DG SANCO’s website http://ec.europa.eu/ consumers/rights/travel_en.htm .  

The aim of this survey is to evaluate the size of existing problems and assess possible policy options in terms of their economic, social and environmental impacts and comparing their relative merits, in order to identify a preferred policy option.  Below, you will find a list of questions, which should help us identify advantages and drawbacks for each possible course of action on EU level on special consumer protection in the area of package travel.  We recognise that some questions will be difficult to answer precisely; please give your best estimate where possible.  Beyond the scope of these questions, please feel free to provide additional information at the e-mail address:  sanco-b2@ec.europa.eu

We would like to receive your completed questionnaire by 7 February 2010.  Please also note that the maximum time to complete each of the sections is 90 minutes.  Partial responses will not be saved.  This means once you start filling in the questionnaire, you have to answer all compulsory questions to submit your response. You can, however, preview the whole questionnaire in a document format (pdf).  Received contributions will be published on the Internet.  It is important to read the specific privacy statement attached to this consultation for information on how your personal data and contribution will be dealt with.

For organisations:  Since the launch in June 2008 of the Register for Interest Representatives (lobbyists) as part of the European Transparency Initiative, organisations are invited to use this Register to provide the European Commission and the public at large with information about their objectives, funding and structures.  It is Commission policy that submissions from organisations will be considered as individual contributions unless the organisations have registered. (http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regrin/)
 

SECTION A:  ABOUT YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION

Please provide details about yourself and your organisation below.  

Name Laurianne Krid, Caroline Ofoegbu
Organisation name:    FIA European Bureau - ID number at the EC Register: 95060931779-32
Telephone number:    +32 2280 07 58
E-mail address:    l.krid@fiabrussels.com; c.ofoegbu@fiabrussels.com


Please indicate which EU Member States your organisation covers: (Please tick)  
Across EU-27    X

 
SECTION B: CONSUMERS’ EXPERIENCES WITH PACKAGE TRAVEL

1.    Please estimate the percentage of consumers who you believe are fully aware of the protection available to purchasers of ‘package travel’ under the PTD (optional)

5 - 10%    X     

2.    On average, how many complaints do you receive (or are you aware of) on an annual (yearly) basis from consumers relating to package travel holidays?  (optional)

250- 500    X   

3.    Please provide an indication of how complaints break down between different types of travel arrangements (compulsory)

TYPE OF TRAVEL ARRANGEMENT    % of complaints

Do not have available statistics    X

 
SECTION C:  SCOPE OF THE DIRECTIVE


The Package Travel Directive (PTD) covers pre-arranged holiday packages which combine at least two of the following: (1) transport, (2) accommodation, (3) other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation  and accounting for a ‘significant proportion of the package’.  Consumers are covered where:  (a) at least two of the above elements are sold at an inclusive price (disregarding separate billing) and (b) the service covers more than 24 hours or includes an overnight accommodation.


4.    Using ticks, indicate which of the following travel-related products or arrangements you think require special consumer protection rules (e.g. information and liability requirements, insolvency protection in case of bankruptcy, etc.)?  (compulsory)

Accommodation, transport and/or other tourist services purchased as a package for an inclusive price (i.e. current definition of a package travel under the PTD)    X
Accommodation, transport and/or other tourist services purchased on the internet from the same site where consumers can assemble the content of the package     X
Accommodation, transport and/or other tourist services purchased on the internet from different sites which are clearly linked on their web pages    X
Cruises    X
Transport and tourist activities where the service covers a period of less than 24 hours (e.g. return flight and ticket to Wimbledon tennis match)    X
Packages purchased for solely business purposes    X
Packages purchased for solely leisure purposes    X
Packages purchased for mixed purposes (private& business)    X
Packages occasionally organised by a company which normally does not organise packages (e.g. package travel to Oktoberfest in Germany organised and sold by a bank for best clients once a year)    -
Packages occasionally organised by a non-business organisation (or not-for-profit organisation) which normally does not organise packages (e.g. package travel to Vatican for Christmas celebration organised and sold by the local church)    -
Accommodation, transport and/or other tourist services purchased as a package for an inclusive price (i.e. current definition of a package travel under the PTD)    X

 
SECTION D:  INFORMATION REQUIREMENTS


The current PTD requires that certain specific information - which is comprehensible, accurate and not misleading - is made available to consumers at either the pre-contractual stage, in the contract, or simply ‘in good time’ prior to the start of the journey.  The following questions are intended to indicate, at which stage, you believe the following information should be provided.

 
5.    On a scale of 1-5, indicate how important it is for consumers to receive information on the listed aspects in order to purchase a travel package?  (5 = Essential, 4 = Very important, 3 = Important, 2 = Slightly important, 1 = Not important and 0 = Do not know) (compulsory)

 

Amount to be paid (money or %) on account and the schedule for paying balance    5
Other tourist activities included in the total price     4
Destination and the means and quality of transport to be used    5
Health requirements e.g. vaccinations required, “safe” practices    5
Meal plans    2
Name, address and telephone number of the organizer's and/or retailer's local representative or, failing that, of local agencies on whose assistance a consumer in difficulty could call    5
Insurance possibilities or options    3
Passport and Visa requirements    5
Travel and holiday itinerary    5
Type and quality of accommodation and its location    5
Travel time, intermediate stops and transport connections/transits and details of the place to be occupied by the traveller (e.g. cabin or berth on ship, sleeper compartment on train)    5
Whether minimum number is required for package to take place and deadline for informing consumer of cancellation if numbers not achieved    5
 

6.    Indicate at which stage(s) you believe each of the following information should be compulsory to provide, if at all? Please leave blank if you do not know or you believe it should not be compulsory (optional)

 

Information on:   In the brochure Pre contract In the Contract Before Departure
Amount to be paid (money or %) on account and the schedule for paying balance x x x  
Other tourist activities included in the total price x x x  
Destination and the means and quality of transport to be used x x x  
Health requirements e.g. vaccinations required, “safe” practices   x    
Meal plans
       
Name, address and telephone number of the organizer's and/or retailer's local representative or, failing that, of local agencies on whose assistance a consumer in difficulty could call
    c  
Insurance possibilities or options   x    
Passport and Visa requirements   x   x
Travel and holiday itinerary
  x   x
Type and quality of accommodation and its location x x x  
Travel time, intermediate stops and transport connections/transits and details of the place to be occupied by the traveller (e.g. cabin or berth on ship, sleeper compartment on train)   x x x
Whether minimum number is required for package to take place and deadline for informing consumer of cancellation if numbers not achieved x      

 

       
7.    The PTD does not specify the form in which information is to be provided to the consumer.  Assuming all information has to be provided in the same form at each stage, indicate the form in which you believe this information should be provided?  (compulsory)

 

  On paper or other printed means On durable medium (e.g. emails, fax, cd-roms) On websites or other marketing material

Other

(please specify)

No formal requirement needed
At the pre-contract stage x x x    
In the Contract x        
Before Departure   x      

 

NB: the specificity of the booking method should be taken into account (travel agency, online booking..)

8.    Who should be responsible for providing information to consumers after the contract is signed?  (optional)

The Organiser/ Tour Operator    X   

9.    Which of these do you consider to be a last minute booking?  (compulsory) Bookings made:

3 - 7 days before departure    X      

10.    Do you think there is a need for special rules regarding information requirement for last minute bookings given the short period of time between signing the contract and departure. If YES, please specify
No

 

SECTION E:  LIABILITIES, OBLIGATIONS AND RESPONSIBILITY FOR CONSUMER DIFFICULTIES AND CONTRACT  

11.    In your opinion, who should be the responsible party for assisting a consumer with problems during package travels?  Tick all that apply  (compulsory)
The provider of the service where the difficulty arises (who may receive the payment indirectly, e.g. airline or hotel which is not organising the package )    X
The organiser of the package (tour-operator)      X
 


12.    If you ticked more than one box and/or believe the responsible party should vary by circumstance, please provide reasons for your answer in the space below.  (optional)


13.    In your opinion, who should be the responsible party for the proper performance of the services as stated in the contract?  Tick all that apply (compulsory)

Seller of the package  (The party who receives the payment directly e.g. travel agency)    
The provider of the service where the difficulty arises (who may receive the payment indirectly, e.g. airline or hotel which is not organising the package )    x
The organiser of the package (tour-operator)      x
Other (please specify)    


14.    If you ticked more than one box, please provide reasons for your answer below.  (optional)
The tour operator endorses part of the responsibility vis-à-vis the consumer and should  address the service provider in case of problems.
 

SECTION F:  CONTRACT CHANGES

15.    In which situations, if any, do you think consumers should have a right to withdraw from the contract before departure without paying any compensation (optional)
If the Tour operator introduces significant changes in the contract terms (change in prices, accommodation…)
Force majeure

16.    In which situations, if any, do you think consumers should have a right to cancel the contract before departure by paying compensation (optional)
Under all other circumstances


17.    After the contract is signed, the current legislation requires the organiser to inform the consumer as quickly as possible if they have to change significantly any of the ‘essential terms’ of a package holiday.  Indicate which of the following elements you consider as being an “essential term”.  Please tick all that apply  (compulsory)

Possible Essential Terms    Tick
Changes in overall price    X
Change in carrier (airline, train service provider etc.)    X
Changes in travel times and/or dates     X
Changes in travel/holiday destination    X
Change in accommodation (e.g. different hotel)    X
Changes in components of additional services (e.g. sightseeing tours, entertainment packages)    X
Change in the payment schedule     X
Change in special requirements which both parties accepted (e.g. facilities for disabled person)     X
Other (specify): any specific item agreed by both consumer and seller to be essential    X

18.    There can often be a long period of time between publication of a package travel brochure and when a consumer books a holiday. During this period, costs for the seller may have increased and as a result, they may need increase their listed prices. If the seller has communicated clearly in the brochure that possibility, on a scale of 1-5 (where 1 = not acceptable and 5 = fully acceptable), indicate how acceptable it is for the seller of a package travel to change the price listed in brochures for the reasons listed below?  (Please score all that apply)  (compulsory)


Variations in transportation costs, including the cost of fuel (fuel surcharges)    3
Variations in taxes, duties and fees chargeable for services such as landing taxes, embarkation/disembarkation fees at ports and airports    3
Variations in exchange rates applied to the package    1
Other (please specify)  -  When the consumers paid the price in full, the tour operator should cover the increase in cost. The seller will normally build in a certain profit margin, which he is very unlikely to pass on to the consumer in case of a decrease of price. In order for this relationship to be balanced, we believe that the Tour Operator should also cover the potential increase in costs.  

 
19.    There can often be a long period of time between signing the contract and departure.  During this period, costs for the seller may have increased/ decreased.  If the seller has communicated that possibility to consumers, on a scale of 1-5 (where 1 = not acceptable and 5 = fully acceptable), indicate how acceptable it is for the seller of a package travel to change the price agreed in the contract for the reasons listed below?  (Please score all that apply)  (compulsory)

Variations in transportation costs, including the cost of fuel (fuel surcharges)    
Variations in taxes, duties and fees chargeable for services such as landing taxes, embarkation/disembarkation fees at ports and airports    
None of the above – all prices in the contract should be fixed    5
Other (please specify)    In principle prices in the contract should be fixed except in the case of price decreases.



20.    When should be the cut-off point for allowing any price changes (either UP or DOWN) from what was agreed in the contract (e.g.  due to variations in transportation costs, taxes, duties or exchange rates etc.)?
X    Other (please specify)    If the full price has been paid in advance, it should not be possible to change the price.

21.    Is there any maximum acceptable level of price changes from what was agreed in the contract?  (compulsory)
Prices should be binding    X
 

SECTION F:  FUTURE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK  

22.    Is there currently an adequate level of protection provided under the minimum provisions of the PTD when purchasing package travel?  (compulsory) 

YES      


23.    If you have answered NO, please identify which aspects should be modified  

Internet booking – 24 hours trips
Take the latest developments into account so as to protect consumers in new products such as dynamic packaging
Tour operators operating in the EU but based in off shore haven (especially on the internet)

24.    Do you believe consumers would be more willing to purchase packages from a seller in another EU country if they have the same rights in all the EU countries?  (compulsory)

YES    X     
 
25.    Using a scale of 1 - 5 (where 1 = not at all important and 5 = very important), rate the following aspects of the current PTD, indicating which you consider to be the most important aspects requiring regulatory update?  (compulsory)   

Removal of cross border barriers in the form of differing or additional requirements at national levels    4
Including other (modern) channels of marketing communication (apart from the brochure) in the scope of the Directive (e.g. the internet)    5
Clarification/updating of definitions and crucial terminology in the Directive (e.g. “consumer”, retailer, organiser, essential terms of the contract, etc.)    5
Clarifying the scope of the Directive    5
Extending the scope of the Directive    5
Other (please specify)    Very clear information about consumers rights and valid expectations from the seller; A better harmonisation of the rules regarding the compulsory insolvency protection  


26.    Using a scale of 1 - 5 (where 1 = not at all important and 5 = very important), rate the following aspects of the current PTD, indicating which you consider to require harmonisation across the EU?  (compulsory)   

The scope and definitions in the PTD    5
The information requirements    5
The liabilities of organisers/retailers    5
Rules regarding cancellation/withdrawal by consumers    4
Rules regarding changes in price and essential terms by providers    5
Rules regarding insolvency protection    5
Establishment of a pan-European fund or scheme for insolvency    4
Other (please specify)    EU wide harmonised consumer rights in the event of cancellation by the seller. Consumers should be compensated within a short and defined period (eg no more than three months).

27.    One way of increasing consumers' awareness could  be the introduction of a package travel label (logo) or trust mark on offers to inform consumers of whether a given product is covered by the PTD or not.  How is this likely to influence consumers’ decisions on which products to purchase?  Please indicate the statement which would apply in most cases

Consumers would definitely consider whether product is under the label or not    X
Price is more important to consumers than protection and whether or not a product carries the label    X 

28.    Which of the following ways of ensuring the protection of consumers would you prefer?  Please give reasons for your answer (optional)

A more up-to-date EU Directive    X
(please give examples of such legislation in the space ‘other’ below)    
Issuing of detailed guidance for businesses    X

29.    The current PTD rules on insolvency pertain to package travels only and do not cover stand alone products.  However, following a recent spate of airlines going bust (bankrupt), it is important to consider the level of protection currently being offered to consumers.  Please note that there will be a possibility to provide more detailed comments on this matter in the context of a forthcoming consultation on air passenger rights.  Do you think it should be compulsory, optional or not required at all when buying standalone airline tickets (i.e. not as part of a package) to provide specific protection (or insurance) so that passengers would be reimbursed for money paid over or repatriated if the airline went bankrupt?  (compulsory)
It should be compulsory and included in the price     X 

30.    Finally, if you want to provide additional information, please do so below.
The current Package Travel Directive requires significant updating if it is to adequately respond to nearly two decades of developments in the package travel sector.   Modern technologies (e.g. internet) allow consumers to design their own packages and all should be done so that they benefit from a satisfactory level of protection. One of the main objectives should be to provide consumers with certainty in terms of the choices they make, the prices they will pay the services/products that they will receive. Once a supplier has made an offer with prices supplied, these prices (whether published in catalogues or electronically) should not be subject to subsequent increases for the season in question. Consumers should also be made fully aware of their rights while travelling.


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