The new package travel law
On 1. July 2018, the new package travel law (PRG) comes into force in Austria. It will bring a lot of new rules, designed for the digital age and its new ways of travel booking. The aim to strengthen and modernise the protection for travellers brings more complexity.
The following article provides an overview of the new types of package travels covered by the law.
The law will be applicable to all package travels booked after the 1. July 2018. Find out more about your rights in case of problems or defects during your journey in our article Your new rights at package travels. If you have already booked your summer vacation, the current legal norms apply (read more).
What are package travels?
Until now, the definition was rather easy: Package travels last for at least 24 hours or overnight and combine at least two travel services (see details below) for one package price, e.g. transport and accommodation.
The new law adds several new options, even though the before mentioned conditions are still necessary in order to constitute a package travel. It is all about how a journey was planned and booked.
Travel services are:
- Transportation of a person (by plane, bus etc...)
- Accommodation of a person (e.g. in a hotel, a bed&breakfast - no long-term stays abroad)
- Car rental
- Every other touristic service
The "other touristic service" has to be an essential element of the journey (at least 25% of the price) booked in advance. If you decide during your stay at the hotel that you want to book a wellness treatment, your journey doesn't become a package travel. But if you book a weekend trip with a guided hiking tour, with 300€ being the total price and 75€ for the hiking tour, it constitutes a package travel.
A cruise is a package travel as it combines the transport and the accommodation. However, travelling with a ferry overnight does not count as a package travel, even though you sleep there. The criteria of accommodation is not seen as an essential element of the contract.
Furthermore, there needs to be a profit motivation. If your sports team organises an annual trip for all members, it's not a package travel.
Up until now, travellers chose and booked a complete package from the catalog or website of a tour operator.
With the new law, several options of individual bundles are covered by the term package travel. The decisive questions are, whether the booking of the single elements happened at once and how it was paid for.
It remains to be seen what this will look like in practice.
A new form of package travels are so called click-through bookings that are conducted online.
1. The consumer books
- several services
- from different traders
- via one connected booking system
- within 24 hours.
2. He only gives his data to the first trader who forwards it to the others.
Example: A consumer books a flight from Vienna to London. He clicks on the button and pays for the flight. Immediately afterwards, offers for a rental car and a hotel appear on the same website. He then books a rental car. His personal data and means of payment are forwarded by the airline to the rental car company. Therefore, he just booked a package travel.
If the traveler books the rental car more than 24 hours after he booked the flight, it's not a package travel. If he immediately books the hotel, but rents the car two days later, the package travel only includes the flight and the hotel.
Linked travel arrangements
Even though they are similar to click-through bookings, linked travel arrangements don’t constitute package travels. Only some regulations of the new law apply. The core elements of linked travel arrangements are:
- facilitation at a single visit or contact with the trader’s point of sale
- within a very short amount of time
Linked travel arrangements mean at least two different types of travel services purchased for the purpose of the same trip or holiday, resulting in the conclusion of separate contracts with the individual travel service providers. The payment for each contract happens separately.
- the booking has to be made at a single visit or contact with the trader’s point of sale (travel agency or website)
- the booking of the second travel service happens within 24 hours and was facilitated by the first trader in a targeted manner (e.g. link on the website), and the consumer has to give his personal data to the second trader.
Example: The traveler books a flight on an online platform. He enters his personal data and pays. A link with the offer to book accommodation appears: “Book the hotel La Maison for the top price of only 90 Euro per night!” He clicks on the link. On the next website, he has to enter his personal data again. Then he clicks on the button “book now” and pays.
This constitutes a targeted offer. If the link would have forwarded the consumer to a second website providing a general list of available hotels, it would not have been a targeted offer and therefore no linked travel arrangement.
Experts believe that the distinction between click-through bookings and linked travel arrangements might be difficult in practice. The most prominent criteria is that the traders don’t forward the personal data of the traveler.
A further characteristic of linked travel arrangements is the separate payment of the mediated service. If you book at a travel agency (not online), the criteria of data transfer will be difficult to determine. Another question is whether separate contracts become a package travel if the travel agency list both travel services on one invoice and the consumer pays the complete price at once.
The prevailing opinion is that the joint payment of individual contracts does not constitute a package travel. However, this is not finally resolved.
The distinction between linked travel arrangements and package travels is important in terms of the legal protection for consumers. For linked travel arrangements, not all rules of the new law apply. There is no tour operator. If something goes wrong, the consumer has to contact his contractual partner for the respective service (e.g. airline, hotel, rental car company…). Consumers are less protected than at the above mentioned types of package travels.
However, regulations regarding insolvency hedging also apply to linked travel arrangements.
Who is the tour operator?
Up until now, this was easy – the tour operator is the trader providing the catalogue. With the new law, the trader who facilitates the package travel becomes the tour operator. At clic-through bookings, the company who forwarded the data of the traveler to the other service providers becomes the tour operator. In the above mentioned example, it would be the airline.
Tips and assistance from your ECC
Find out more about your rights during package travels at our respective article.
We are happy to provide you with free legal advise and out-of-court interventions if you face any problems during your travels. The only condition is that you have a cross-border contract with a tour operator from another EU Member State.