Despite new regulations coming into force aimed at providing British holidaymakers with greater protection, extra care should be taken when booking holidays abroad.
Package holiday rules changed on 1st July 2018 to place more responsibility on online booking travel firms.
Previously, holidaymakers would often find they were unable to hold online travel companies responsible should flights be delayed or cancelled, if their hotel and holiday was not as advertised, or if someone suffered injury due to the fault of others.
This was because the online booking platforms were able to avoid responsibility, with the individual suppliers being responsible for each aspect of the break – something many holidaymakers were completely unaware of until something went wrong.
Under the new rule changes, travel companies are now required by law to take full responsibility if flights and accommodation are sold at the same time – something most people do when using an online holiday booking service.
It is a change which has been hailed as providing greater protection for consumers and, legally, it does.
However, as always, people need to be aware of the small print and conditions when booking any break, as not all bookings will fall under the new laws.
And, it appears companies are already looking at ways to influence the way people book their holidays, which may be appealing on first sight, but could actually leave them at greater risk in the long run.
Television advert promoted new style offer, but didn’t reference impact on protection
One of the largest travel companies, Expedia, has already caused a stir by launching a new ‘Add-on-Advantage’ scheme, in which discounts on hotels are offered when people book separately to their flights.
The firm’s television advert suggests there are advantages and savings to be had by booking those elements of a break separately, but makes no reference to a possible impact on consumer protection, as the holiday would not be classed as a ‘package’ under the new laws.
The advert says: “A hotel can make or break a trip, and at Expedia we don’t think you should be rushed into booking one. That’s why we created Expedia’s Add-On Advantage.
“Now, after booking your flight, you unlock discounts on selected hotels for your trip that are available right until the day you leave.”
Of course, by advertising such an offer, Expedia is not breaking any laws or rules, but is actually steering people towards what would be classed as a “Linked Travel Arrangement” (LTA), not a ‘Package Holiday’, which provides much less financial protection.
Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), described Expedia’s campaign as ‘cynically encouraging the consumer, for no good reason, to lose out on all that gold-plated consumer protection.’
In a statement, Expedia described the new ‘Add-On Advantage’ offer as ‘a bonus for people who require time and flexibility to book their trip.’
It added ‘Our website footers and booking terms and conditions provide clear information to consumers on the level of protections that they have depending on the travel products that are booked.’
And there is the issue – and the warning – for all holidaymakers going forward from this date.
Consumers are entitled to fully protected holiday packages and, although clear messages should be given as to whether or not offers provide such cover, I expect this will not always be so.
Never has it been more important to be careful over the type of holiday you book, and wary of new offers which suggest a move away from booking all aspects of a break at once.
Read the small print and check for the hidden dangers.