Package Travel Directive

The EU is formulating a new package travel directive, but who should be responsible for enforcing it in the UK?

Package travel directive In this feature PTRs CPRs Civil Aviation Authority The EU is formulating a new Package Travel Directive, but who should be responsible for enforcing it in the UK? Bruce Treloar makes the case for collaborative working All-inclusive holiday plan T CURRENT S ITUATION Package travel in the UK is currently governed by: Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (PTRs); Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs); and the Civil Aviation Authoritys (CAA) Air Travel Organisers Licensing (Atol) scheme. Trading standards acts on complaints or instigates investigations based on intelligence-led enforcement, focusing on real consumer and business detriment under the PTRs. In some cases, local enforcement is supplemented by funding from National Trading Standards. Trading standards also promotes Home Authority and Primary Authority schemes for holiday businesses in their local areas. The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) provides a similar scheme to its membership. WHAT TR ADING STANDARDS WANTS In a recent meeting with Vicky Ford MEP, chairman of the committee that is finalising the draft of the PTD, trading standards raised concerns about certain aspects of the proposed legislation and suggested some amendments. Those amendments, in particular, were: G Insolvency provisions Trading standards wants clarification as to whether tour organisers from outside the UK can use our insolvency protection schemes, or if the UK has to recognise theirs? The UK provides for higher standards of protection than other countries, but cannot insist that traders from outside the UK meet this standard G Enforcement against non-EU operators Member states are being asked to ensure that sellers from outside the EU are subject to the rules, but the Directive does not say how this will be done. Trading standards believes this will be a resource issue because UK local authorities are legally required to respond to problems from consumers and businesses in their area G Information requirements Trading standards suggested a logo or mark should be used by businesses to symbolise the level of protection offered he EU is formulating a new Package Travel Directive (PTD) to protect holidaymakers if their tour operator goes out of business. It should be in its nal form by September 2015, when an implementation consultation will take place. In a recent meeting with Vicky Ford MEP, chairman of the committee that is nalising the draft of the PTD, trading standards raised concerns about aspects of the proposed legislation, and suggested some amendments (see panel, What trading standards wants). However, there is some debate in the UK about whether trading standards will even be involved in enforcing the directive when it nally becomes law. Currently, package travel in the UK is governed by the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (PTRs), the relevant criminal elements of which are enforced by UK trading standards services (TSS). The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) are also an important tool for TSS when it comes to regulating the travel and holiday sector. Where a ight is included in a travel package, operators are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and its Air Travel Organisers Licensing (Atol) scheme. However, this is only in relation to the nancial protection of consumers. Trading standards enforces the accuracy of information and the legality of pricing, and advises on the liability of businesses. In February, CTSI attended a meeting of the Air Transport Insolvency Protection Advisory Committee held at the Department for Transport (DfT)/CAA at which doubt was expressed as to whether trading standards would take on the PTD when it is implemented in the UK. The CAA feels that the new holiday-related laws should be the responsibility of one body unlike at present, when the DfT is in overall charge of Atol and the PTRs fall within the remit of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). However, the Association of Chief Trading Standards Ofcers (Actso) does not want total responsibility for enforcement to be given to the CAA, or for the issue to be resolved in a way that means trading standards would be unable to act against serious consumer detriment being caused by a misleading holiday or travel activity. Trading standards enforcement of current package travel regulations has been a success (see panel, Case studies) because it: G Uses intelligence from Citizens Advice effectively G Combines consumer protection legislation including fraud where necessary when investigating holiday and travel law breaches G Has good local links G Can provide a light touch, Home and Primary Authority arrangements, timely advice and strong enforcement Undoubtedly, the CAA could equally show success in enforcing its Atol rules for ight-inclusive packages. However, when operators who are not Atol-protected collapse, enforcement is carried out by TSS, relying on background and legal statements from the CAA. This collaborative working is a success and better joint working with the CAA should be looked at when the PTD is implemented. After all, could the CAA carry out projects on a national basis as effectively as trading standards, or visit operators in response to a complaint? What would it do about overlapping issues such as CPRs and the Companies Act and how would coordination of TSS and the CAA work when there is an overlap? It is important that trading standards retains a power, if not a duty, to enforce the PTD. Simply reassigning legislation to another enforcer will not remove the existing enforcers role, so this does not seem productive or useful for the enforcers or businesses. Trading standards would need to develop closer links with the CAA if the PTD is retained in its current form. If BIS is still the responsible government body for implementing the directive, these closer links could be recognised in a Memorandum of Understanding: trading standards could enforce on a local level and the CAA could work with its EU and international colleagues to ensure the current enforcement limitations are overcome. The new directive will also mean CTSI forging closer ties with the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), Citizens Advice, the UK European Consumer Centre and the Competitions and Markets Authority. It has been suggested that the National Trading Standards, working with the relevant CTSI lead ofcer, could develop and fund a small, specialist Package Travel Unit to provide training and coordinate enforcement activities. Trading standards has a breadth of responsibility and clear attention to detail when investigating package holiday matters. However, a smarter way of working is required on this, and many other things, because effective joint working is essential. CAS E STUDIES Examples of trading standards package- than formal procedure, so the case was the borough has also engaged with Travel holiday enforcement include: referred to the Latvian authorities. It was Republic a large, internet-based seller of 1. Perth and Kinross used PTRs and CPRs to left to trading standards to resolve after a holiday products to achieve changes to its complicated investigation. practices without recourse to formal action. respond to complaints by VisitScotland about firms using accredited ratings that 4. On 19 February 2015, Moray took court 8. West Yorkshire was involved with were misleading and inaccurate because action against a local coach operator. investigations carried out jointly with they were no longer scheme members. Colin Quilter trading as Osprey Coaches Birmingham. It is about to initiate court There have been nine investigations and and arranging coach tours, with action against a tour operator under the action in the past five years. accommodation, throughout the UK and PTRs and CPRs. On 18 February 2015, a travel Ireland was fined by Elgin Sheriff Court. He agent received a caution over PTR and CPR National Trading Standards in 2014 to had pleaded guilty to charges under the offences. investigate PTR breaches. It worked with PTRs. Complaints had led to the discovery 20 other services to carry out 160 joint that Quilter had no financial security in travel company to Birmingham Crown inspections, which revealed that 80 per cent place to protect consumers. He was given Court. Educational Hajj & Umrah, of of tour operators were failing to comply advice by trading standards on several Edgbaston, admitted offences under the with PTRs and CPRs. A joint investigation by occasions, and signed a legal undertaking CPRs and the PTRs. It was ordered to pay a Birmingham, City of London Police and in 2012 to provide payment protection, but total of 39,669 in compensation, costs and Newham Trading Standards also exposed continued to sell tours without any. fines. The company was also ordered to 2. Birmingham obtained funding from breaches of PTRs. Birmingham had two 5. Anglesey had 12 package travel crown court cases, relating to offences investigations in 2014/15, which were a mix under the PTRs, as a result of investigations of civil and criminal breaches under the launched after complaints in 2013. PTRs and CPRs. 3. In 2011, Highland investigated Glenspean 6. Poole is currently involved in a large- 9. In February 2015, Birmingham took a Hajj pay 22,150 in compensation to six victims, 15,119 costs and a 2,400 fine. 10. Bromley opted for a lighter touch with a business in Orpington, Kent. The owner was a retired coach driver who supplemented Lodge Hotel, which was falsely claiming scale joint investigation with colleagues in his pension by offering theatre trips and VisitScotland accreditation. The issue was Bournemouth, looking to pursue offences weekend breaks. He was following the resolved with the property owners, but its under the Timeshare Regulations, CPRs and spirit of the law by placing all funds into website still advertised the illegal signage. the Fraud Act. Funding permitting, it will a holding account, which he did not use The sites Latvian-based owner refused all possibly pursue conspiracy charges. for one month after trips were completed, contact, so an email was sent to the CAAs 7. Kensington and Chelsea has a large, to ensure he could fulfil refunds or consumer protection partnership to effect ongoing investigation around PTRs and compensation claims. With some gentle resolution. Trading standards received a CPRs that involves considerable consumer persuasion, he opened a trust fund and reply from the Office of Fair Trading, stating detriment. It anticipates that this will result appointed a trustee not involved with the that it would suggest informal referral rather in formal action. Over the past few years, business, in compliance with the PTRs. Credits Published Bruce Treloar is CTSIs lead ofcer for Thursday 7 May, 2015 holiday and travel law. Images: tovovan / Shutterstock To share this page, in the toolbar click on