Consumers who book package holidays online will be better protected under proposals announced by the government today.
The government will consult for the next six weeks on its plan to introduce new consumer rights around package holidays.
It wants better information to be provided to travellers at the point of booking – including making consumers aware of their rights to refund – and for the business that puts a package together to be responsible for the entire holiday, even if some elements will be fulfilled by third parties.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says the use of online booking sites to create personalised holidays has created a gap in consumer rights with 50% of holiday arrangements not financially protected if a company ceases trading.
ABTA said holidaymakers should get the same level of protection whether they book online, on the phone or in person.
It is also calling for more clarity about what constitutes a package holiday so people can better understand when they are protected.
Consumer minister Margot James said: “While consumer laws protect millions of holidaymakers from the fallout if a travel company goes into administration, the way we book holidays has changed significantly in recent years and it is important that regulations are updated to reflect this.
“On average UK households put aside £100 every month for their holidays. The proposals outlined in this consultation will ensure that an extra 22% of holidays can be booked online with holidaymakers safe in the knowledge that they will get their hard-earned money back if something does go wrong.”
The government says enhanced regulations will protect an extra 10 million package holidays booked online.
It is encouraging travel agents, booking sites, trade associations and consumer groups to respond to its consultation over the next six weeks.
The proposed changes form part of the EU’s Package Travel Directive, which comes into force in July 2018.
Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?, said: “Holidaymakers should be able to book their trips without worrying about whether they will be protected if their travel agent, airline, or hotel goes bust.
“The government must make sure gaps in protection are addressed so that consumers have peace of mind however they book their package holiday.”
Last summer, thousands of families were left out of pocket and others found themselves stranded abroad when Low Cost Holidays went into administration.
The package holiday firm wasn’t part of the government-backed Atol scheme, which provides assistance to consumers when travel firms stop trading and ensures travellers either complete their holiday or get a complete refund.