The Package Travel Regulations
By law you have the right to expect the holiday that you booked and paid for. So, look carefully at how the package holiday is described in the brochure or website.
If the holiday doesn’t match the description, under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (the "Regulations") you may have a claim against the tour operator for compensation.
If you've booked a package holiday, the tour operator is liable for all the services - car hire, accommodation, flights, etc - as long as they were part of the package the tour operator arranged for you.
The Package Travel Regulations can be used to assist you in pursuing claims against tour operators. This information applies to England, Wales and Scotland.
If you were unhappy with your package holiday, see our step-by-step guide to claim compensation for a poor package holiday.
Is your holiday protected?
In relation to any claim, it's essential to establish whether your holiday benefits from the protection of the Package Travel Regulations.
If your holiday contract falls within the definition of a 'package', the Regulations will imply additional protective terms into your contract with the tour operator.
The Regulations define a 'package' as the pre-arranged combination of at least two of the following components:
- other tourist services that make up a significant proportion of the package. For example a spa service on a spa break, or a guided safari tour on a safari holiday.
The definition includes a wide range of travel arrangements. Clearly traditional package holidays described in brochures are covered, but it would also include tailor-made holidays where you have selected separate components.
The Regulations only apply to packages sold or offered for sale in the UK.
When it's not a package
The Regulations also apply to travel packages which are not holidays, for example, business travel arrangements, conference arrangements, educational weekends, school trips etc.
Package holidays could also include holidays where the accommodation and the flights are supplied by two different suppliers, but organised or put together by the same party.
Today it's becoming more common to offer holidays that are not packages. They may seem to be the same, as they include flights and accommodation, but care must be taken by the agent as to how they're described.
A holiday will not necessarily be a package if it's made quite clear to you that you have two separate contracts, one with the airline and one with the accommodation provider.
If phrases are used such as 'dynamic packaging', 'tailor-made holiday' or 'flight plus hotel deal' these holidays may not be packages. Always check with your provider.
Your package travel must be as described
Regulation 4, states that no travel organisers can supply consumers with misleading information.
This is wider than just brochure information - none of the descriptive material should be misleading, including any verbal description.
This could be the case where the swimming pool referred to in the brochure or website doesn't exist or the beach is considerably further away from the hotel than the five minutes' walk suggested.
If information is misleading the organiser or retailer is in breach of the Regulations and may be liable to you for any loss.
Travel brochure requirements
Regulation 5 sets out the requirements as to brochures.
In particular, the brochure must be 'legible, comprehensible and accurate'. The following information, in addition to the price, must also be provided:
This states that the following information, in addition to the price, must be provided:
- the destination and the means, characteristics and categories of transport used
- the type of accommodation, its location, category or degree of comfort and its main features and, where the accommodation is to be provided in a Member State of the European Union, its approval or tourist classification under the rules of that Member State
- the meals which are included in the package
- the itinerary
- general information about passport and visa requirements which apply for British citizens and health formalities required for the journey and the stay
- either the monetary amount or the percentages of the price which is to be paid on account and the timetable for payment of the balance
- whether a minimum number of persons is required for the package to take place and, if so, the deadline for informing the consumer in the event of cancellation
- the arrangements (if any) which apply if consumers are delayed at the outward or return points of departure
- the arrangements for security for money paid over and for the repatriation of the consumer in the event of insolvency
The regulation applies to both tour operators and travel agents and failure to comply is a criminal offence.
If you are the victim of a misleading brochure description, you can use our template letter to make a claim.
When your trip is ruined by building work
If the tour operator is a member of ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents), they will be bound by the ABTA Code of Conduct. At the time of writing, the latest version of the ABTA Code of Conduct was issued on 7 April 2015.
Rules 2l and 3l of the Code of Conduct specifically refer to the location of building works.
If the tour operator becomes aware of building works, which may reasonably be considered to seriously impair the enjoyment of travel arrangements, it must notify clients of the situation without undue delay.
The operator must provide the clients with accurate information about the extent of the building works and offer them the opportunity to transfer to alternative travel arrangements.
These days most tour operators will notify you of the existence of building works in the vicinity of the hotel/resort and most problems relate to the accuracy of the information provided relating to the extent of the building works.
Changes to an essential term of a package
Regulations 12 and 13 of the Package Travel Regulations are concerned with pre-departure cancellation or alteration by the organiser.
If there are significant alterations to the essential terms of your package, the travel organiser must notify you as quickly as possible in order to enable you to take appropriate decisions and in particular to decide whether to withdraw from the contract without penalty or to accept the alterations.
You are then required to let the travel company know what you have chosen to do as soon as possible.
What is an essential term?
In the context of a package holiday contract, an alteration to an 'essential term of the contract' is likely to include a change of any of the following:
- the price
- the precise accommodation, standard of accommodation and accommodation facilities
- the type and standard of transport
- the place of departure and destination
- any facility or service advertised or promoted as forming a part of the package
- any term required by the Package Travel Regulations or the Abta Code of Conduct to be included as part of the contract,
although what constitutes an 'essential term of the contract' will often depend on the circumstances of the case.
In practice, the problem is that the tour operator or travel agent may not inform you of any pre-departure changes until shortly before your planned departure date.
Many of you would have already have booked your holiday time off well in advance and find it difficult either to rearrange your holiday time or find an alternative holiday at the same price.
Invariably, you are left with little choice but to go ahead with the package holiday, as the alternative will be no holiday at all.
It's important to note that, even if you do decide to cancel the package holiday (and you do manage to find an alternative holiday), you may still be entitled to some compensation in addition.
Use our template letter to claim compensation if your package holiday was changed.
Withdrawal from a package contract
If you withdraw from a package contract because the organiser made changes to the essential terms of the contract (as above), or where the organiser of a package cancels the package for any reason other than your own fault, then Regulation 13 gives you the following rights:
- to take a substitute package (if available) of equivalent or superior quality, or
- to take a substitute package of lower quality (if available) and to recover from the organiser the difference in price between the price of the package purchased and that of the substitute package, or
- to have the purchase price repaid as soon as possible
You would also be entitled to compensation, unless the cancellation was due to:
- the number of people taking the package being less than the minimum required (provided that you are notified of this within the period indicated in the description of the package), or
- unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond the cancelling party's control (provided that the situation could not have been avoided even if all due care had been exercised). The Regulations expressly provide that overbooking is not an 'unusual and unforeseeable circumstance'
Post departure changes
Regulation 14 provides that where, after departure, a significant proportion of the services contracted for is not provided, or the organiser becomes aware that they will be unable to procure a significant proportion of them:
- the organiser must make suitable alternative arrangements, at no extra cost to you, for the continuation of the package and will, where appropriate, compensate you for the difference between the services to be supplied under the contract and those actually supplied
- if it is impossible to make arrangements, or these are rejected by you for good reason, the organiser will, where appropriate, provide you with equivalent transport back to the place of departure or to another place to which you have agreed and will, where appropriate, compensate you
Making a package holiday compensation claim
If you want to claim compensation for a package holiday, damages in travel claims can usually be broken down into four headings, although your complaint may not fall into every category:
- Loss of value This is the difference between the value of the package holiday you paid for and the one you actually got
- Out-of-pocket expenses Any reasonable expenses you incurred as a result of the breach of contract
- Loss of enjoyment Compensation for the disappointment and distress caused by things going wrong
- Personal injury Compensation for any personal injury incurred abroad. You'll need to seek specialist legal advice in relation to this
In the case of unsatisfactory quality complaints there are no set guidelines as to the assessment of damages.
In many of the reported cases, the judge does not separate the damages for loss of value and loss of enjoyment, but awards an aggregate amount.
We recommend, though, that you still set out your claims separately. Presenting the case in a detailed and logical format will facilitate an earlier settlement, and is likely to achieve a better settlement for you.