On 1 July 2018, the government’s new Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 came into force. This follows a significant period of consultation with the travel industry and April’s published responses from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to queries on the proposed changes.
Under the previous regulations, in order to be deemed a “package”, two elements of a trip (eg. travel + accommodation) had to be booked under a single contractual arrangement with a single supplier.
The 2018 Regulations introduce the new concept of a Linked Travel Arrangement. This offers financial, insolvency and other protections to consumers who do not purchase a single packaged product from a single supplier, but who purchase two or more services from separate suppliers through a single purchase point (eg. an online booking site or call centre), and/or who make ‘click through’ purchases of additional elements up to 24 hours after their initial purchase. The inclusion of this new concept widens the scope of what can be deemed a package and what may give rise to action against a company. Suppliers are also affected, since section 29 of the 2018 Regulations preserves the existing entitlement of package organisers to seek redress from any third party that has contributed to the negligence giving rise to the compensation claim.
The wider scope of the 2018 Regulations means that a greater number of travel retailers and suppliers will come under the duties to consumers which they impose, including ensuring adequate insurance protections are in place in case of the insolvency of a travel company to cover the costs of financial redress, repatriating a traveller and finding alternative accommodation prior to a repatriation.
The changes to the Regulations come against the background of a 500% increase in travel sickness claims between 2013 – 2016 (as reported by the Association of British Travel Agents), which led the Ministry of Justice to introduce fixed costs for travel sickness claims in April 2018. Whilst the introduction of fixed costs is good news for defendants and insurers, the extended scope of the 2018 Regulations means that the increase in compensation claims may continue against not only traditional travel agents and travel companies, but also airlines, web-based companies and hotel chains who may offer add-on travel products through their points of sale.