Online travel bookings under the EU spotlight

By April 16, 2014EU

By Aline Brandstatter, Brussels office

In July last year, the European Commission proposed new rules to revise the current legislation on package travel and assisted travel arrangements. This is being done with the aim of building a level playing field for all stakeholders in the travel industry, and to provide consumers with the same level of protection, no matter how they booked their holiday. The disruptive nature of the internet has radically changed how millions of people book their holidays, and the current rules can sometimes cause confusion about what levels of protection exist at what stage of their journey.

To do this means extending the scope of the Package Travel Directive to include new types of travel services, in particular those sold online.  In theory, this means more travellers would be protected by these new provisions, provided that their different combination of travel services (i.e. separate hotel and flight bookings) match the criteria required to form a ‘package’.

It is now up to the Council to adopt its own position

The European Parliament’s position at first reading adopted most of the Commission proposal’s key provisions. There are a few sensitive issues though, one of which is click-through. This refers to clicks on a URL link in order to access the webpage it directs to. MEPs claim that this is merely advertising and therefore demand their exclusion of the scope. However, the Council’s position is still not set on this issue.

Furthermore, the new concept of Assisted Travel Arrangements is met with scepticism among Member States. Whilst the Directive targets full harmonization, some of the delegations would rather stick to national provisions ensuring a better protection and head towards a targeted harmonization approach for the revised legislation.

Next steps

The Greek Presidency is now aiming to present a progress report on this text on 27th May 2014. If the adoption of this text takes place in 2014/2015, the new rules could be expected to apply to the online world by late 2017.

A new rapporteur will be appointed following the European parliamentary elections and, with the new class of MEPs, Parliament could change its position…