The new Package Travel Directive comes into force on 01 July 2018. Check dein Recht has summarised the most important changes in travel law for you and talked to travel law expert Oliver Huq at Schumacher & Partner in Düsseldorf about the implications for travellers.
One of the most important innovations of the new EU Package Travel Directive is certainly that holidaymakers now have 2 years to assert their travel price reduction claims against the organiser or retailer. The exclusion period of one month after return, which applies until then, shall cease to apply without replacement and the limitation period of 2 years, calculated from the time of the end of the trip (cf. § 651j BGB), shall thus remain in effect. Nevertheless, it still makes sense to assert your claims as quickly as possible, above all to preserve evidence. Here it is necessary to observe some formalities. The traveller is subject to a documentation obligation – but what exactly does that actually mean?
“Furthermore, the consumer is well advised to document all deficiencies. In addition, it can be useful to take screenshots of the offered trip at the time of booking and store. As before, in the event of deficiencies on the trip, the deficiency must be reported in writing to the tour guide (not to the reception!) and documented (Click here to download the deficiency report). At the latest after the return one must address however nevertheless also a complaint to the tour operator (the contracting partner) and announce its travel price reduction requirements with an appropriate period” advises attorney Oliver Huq.
It should be noted, however, that the time of booking is decisive, not the time of travel. Holidaymakers can only invoke the new EU Package Travel Directive if the trip was booked after the key date. The law at the time of the conclusion of the contract applies.
Another innovation is that the new EU directive now also makes travel agents responsible. Package tour operators, travel agents and brokers who offer individual tourist components as combined travel services (e.g. flight, hotel and rental car, etc.) must take care, because the new category of combined travel services is added to the previous classification into package tour brokering and individual travel services.
As before, intermediaries become tour operators themselves if they combine several service components and offer them as a “package”. However, they can also become tour operators if they offer several individual travel services (so-called combined travel services). If only one service is offered (e.g. the arrangement of an overnight stay), nothing changes. In Internet sales, the term package tour is extended with the associated online procedures (so-called click-through booking).
If the provider advertises – regardless of the actual categorisation – with terms such as “package tour”, “package”, “arrangement” or similar, then the offer is automatically treated as a package tour and also as such.
In particular, providers must take account of new information obligations (§ 651w Paragraph 2 BGB, Article 251 EGBGB) when arranging related travel services:
For example, the customer receives a form about the mediated service(s) before the conclusion of the contract. This informs him that the service providers are liable for the proper provision of services. In future, package travel agents will also have the same information obligations vis-à-vis customers as tour operators.
In addition to the existing information requirements (on destination, number of overnight stays, itinerary, means of transport, accommodation, meals, etc.), it will also be necessary in future to provide information on the language in which services are provided (e.g. guided tours, excursions, visits) or on the suitability of a journey for people with reduced mobility. In addition, the customer (of any nationality!) must be informed of the valid entry regulations and the approximate deadlines for obtaining the visa before accepting the booking.
A large advantage of the new package travel guideline sees attorney Oliver Huq for individual travelers ever more travelers would like to book no classical package journeys more. Individually designed trips are becoming more and more popular. The keyword here is now “connected travel service arranged” – this exists when a provider sells at least 2 different services to the holidaymaker, for example flight and rental car, and separate invoices are created for these. In the future, this will already be considered as a package tour or associated travel service, which will facilitate the assertion of claims for a reduction in the price of the journey at a later date.”