More protection for online holiday bookings takes force

Nyree Stewart
2 July 2018
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New consumer rights have been introduced to protect an extra 10 million Brits a year who have bought package holidays in the UK.

The government’s new Package Travel Regulations are set to save Brits on package holidays tens of millions of pounds a year by ensuring that consumers who book package holidays through travel websites enjoy the same rights as those who book with a travel agent.

ABTA, the travel association, notes that in 2017 83% of Brits booked a holiday online, compared to 76% in 2016. It says this change in how we book travel - such as using online booking sites - has created a gap in consumer protections, with 50% of holidays not currently financially protected if a company fails.

The new regulations, which came into force on 1 July 2018, covers all holidays booked from this date. The new protections include:   

  • ensuring people who book holidays online through travel sites enjoy the same rights as those who book with a traditional travel agent;
  • broadening the definition of package holidays to capture modern booking models such as online and via mobile;
  • requiring travel providers and operators to provide better information to travellers, making it clear what their rights to refund are; and
  • making online sites, which enable consumers to put travel packages together, responsible for the entire holiday, even if services are performed by third parties.

Business minister Andrew Griffiths says: “Britain is a nation of travellers and we each put aside around £23.10 per week to go towards package holidays. Given that commitment, when we are booking holidays it is reasonable for all of us to expect that if something goes wrong we are protected financially.

“The measures that come into effect will ensure holidaymakers are properly compensated if things do go wrong, removing the risks for consumers and building on our long, proud history of high standards when it comes to travel protections.”

Emma Grimster, spokesperson at TravelSupermarket, adds: “It is absolutely right that package holiday bookings made online should benefit from the same financial protection as those booked via a travel agent, either in person, or over the phone. 

“However, the new rules only apply to packages booked with one supplier, so if you prefer to shop around and book elements of your holidays with different suppliers, or don’t book all elements at the same time, you would be wise to take additional steps to ensure your trip is protected. Namely, paying via a credit card for items over £100 and taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy, should anything go wrong.”

TravelSupermarket highlights five top tips to book a holiday with confidence: 

  1. Pay by card: By paying with a credit card for anything over the value of £100, you are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, even if you only pay for part of the transaction by credit card - even just £1. If you don’t have a credit card or the transaction is under £100 in value, then pay the whole amount by debit card to benefit from the protection that the Visa Chargeback scheme can offer. Never pay by cash, cheque, pre-paid card or bank transfer as you’ll have no protection at all.
  2. Look for ATOL cover: Look out for holidays with ATOL cover, which means you will be protected financially should something happen before you travel, such as the travel company going bust.
  3. Take out travel insurance:  Not all trips will have ATOL cover - for example, DIY travel arrangements, such as flights, a hotel or a day trip are unlikely to be protected by the scheme. Instead, take out a travel insurance policy that includes end supplier failure. This will protect you should a company you have booked with go bust.
  4. Avoid fraudulent websites: Look out for warning signs that a site is not what it seems when you book. For example, a site offering prices that are much cheaper than others.  
  5. Seen an offer that looks too good to be true? If in any doubt, put the company name into a search engine and check the reviews online. Then check the memberships and licences it trades under, and remember to only pay by credit or debit card.

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