Australia-based wholesaler Excite Holidays collapsed into voluntary administration last week. Lawyer Farina Azam examines what the implications are for agents under the Package Travel Regulations.
As a wholesaler, Excite Holidays sold holidays on a B2B basis to tour operators and travel agents – they did not contract directly with consumers. This means all Excite holidays should have been re-sold to consumers under the agent’s or tour operator’s own brand, terms and conditions, price and – where applicable – Atol, Abta or other form of financial protection.
Crucially, it also means that agents and tour operators are legally responsible to customers for the provision of the Excite Holidays sold to customers.
Since the majority of these holidays will have been sold to customers as package holidays, the agents and tour operators, being the package organisers, need to turn to the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 (PTR) to understand their legal obligations to customers in these circumstances.
Essentially, package organisers must fulfil the customer’s booking with, where possible, the same services which Excite was contracted to provide – or if that’s not possible a suitable alternative of a comparable standard. It’s been mentioned that some of Excite’s suppliers have already started contacting agents and tour operators offering to fulfil the Excite Holidays at the same price as was being offered to Excite – which would mean minimal disruption to customers and no liability under the PTR.
If it isn’t possible to use the same suppliers, package organisers should, where possible, offer an alternative to the customer, preferably that causes minimal disruption. For example, a change of accommodation to another of the same or a higher standard, would be considered a “minor change”, as would a change to the length of the holiday by less than 12 hours – and therefore no liability under the PTR.