The government is carrying out a review of the implementation last July of the new Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which drafted the new regulations, confirmed to TTG this week a review was under way and “would be published in due course”.
A BEIS spokesperson declined to comment on the scope of the review, other than stating it would focus on the first year of the new regulations.
The PTRs formed the basis of the government’s implementation of the latest EU Package Travel Directive (PTD), with the Department for Transport and CAA responsible for changes to the Atol scheme.
“The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations (PTR 2018) provide a greater level of protection to UK holidaymakers by bringing many modern methods of booking package holidays (for example online) into scope.
“The effect of PTR 2018 is to increase the number of packages that have insolvency protection in place so that consumers are refunded and, where appropriate, repatriated if the organiser becomes insolvent.”
The department, though, faced heavy criticism from the travel sector for its handling of the roll-out after publishing a first draft of the new terms just 10 weeks before implementation, despite the PTD having been published in December 2015.
Meanwhile, guidance notes promised to the travel sector to aid the transition failed to materialise until after the legislation had come into force.
“BEIS have done absolutely nothing at all,” Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, told TTG.
Bowen said while traditional package organisers appeared to be “coping well”, those previously selling so-called “flight plus” arrangements had faced a more difficult transition.
“Some appear to have made no change at all,” said Bowen. “I came across a set of booking conditions last week that still warned if you bought flight plus product, there was no liability if things went wrong.
“One issue, I suspect, is the CAA’s decision to create a 'multi-contract package' Atol certificate, which some businesses seem to think gets them completely off the hook when things go wrong, much like flight plus. Legally, of course, it doesn’t, the magic word is 'package'.”
Bowen added there was still widespread confusion around Linked Travel Arrangements (LTA), a new booking category introduced by the new PTRs.
“If customers are told what an LTA really is, I can’t see any reason for them to buy one as opposed to a package," said Bowen. "And if the seller doesn’t explain it, then it defaults to being a package anyway.”
Abta said it had engaged with BEIS to help develop its guidance and communicate it to members, while assisting them through training, seminars and regional meetings to better understand how the new PTRs affect their business and providing ongoing phone and email support.
A Department for Transport spokesperson told TTG it was supporting the review, but stressed the process was being led by BEIS.