Your new rights at package travels
In Austria, the new package travel law (PRG) comes into force on July 1st, 2018. The following article explains which rights you will have then.
The article The new package travel law provides detailed information regarding which types of travels the new rules are applicable to.
The new law is applicable to package travels booked on or after July 1st, 2018. If you have already booked your summer vacation, it is covered by the "old" legal provisions (read more).
Information duties before conclusion of contract
Before a contract is binding, the tour operator and eventually the travel agency have to inform you about the essential elements of the journey, including:
- Destination or travel route
- Included services
- Minimum number of participants and size of the travel group
- Full price
- Means of payment
- Right of cancellation against payment of fees
- Optional travel insurance
- Contact details of the tour operator/travel agency
- Entry requirements of the destination regarding passport and visa
The law requires standard information forms. Most of the elements listed there become part of the contract. Changes are only possible if explicitly agreed upon.
If the trader doesn’t provide the correct information about possible fees and costs, the traveller is not obliged to pay.
Information duties regarding linked travel arrangements
If you booked linked travel arrangements instead of a package travel, the trader has to inform you that not all regulations of the law apply. However, the provisions regarding insolvency hedging and liability in case of booking errors of the trader do apply.
If the travel agency doesn’t provide the correct information, the consumer gains the following rights against the travel agency:
- right to cancellation
- right to withdraw due to danger at destination
- right to removal of defects and
- right to compensation.
Technical errors of the booking system
Tour operators, travel agencies as well as the respective service providers (e.g. airline, hotel…) are liable for technical defects of the booking system, if attributable to them.
The booking confirmation should be provided to you immediately after you concluded the contract. Specific information duties apply as well, similar to those described above.
Information about the tour operator’s safety provisions in case of insolvency are required, including an explanation on your reimbursment in such scenario.
Furthermore, the confirmation should indicate that you are obliged to immediately report any defects and the respective contact details therefore.
Transfer of the contract
You are entitled to transfer your package travel contract to another person. However, the tour operator can charge you or the other person for any occuring additional costs (e.g. for a new flight ticket, as name changes are impossible). He has to provide you with an invoice about those additional costs.
You are obliged to inform the tour operator at least seven days before departure about your wish to transfer the contract to another person. Your notice has to be on a durable medium, like letter, fax, e-mail or sms.
Price increases are only allowed if reductions are also possible. However, it is never allowed if the departure is less than 20 days away.
If the price increases for more than 8%, the trader has to provide you with respective information on a durable medium, giving you a reasonable deadline to either accept the new price or withdraw from the contract without charge.
Important note: No reaction from you within the given time period is considered as approval.
Other essential changes by the tour operator
The same rules apply if the tour operator wants to change main elements of the journy before departure. Silence constitutes acceptance!
Cancellation and withdrawal
Like before, you can cancel by paying the respective cancellation fee consituted in the contract (in practice, the fee is often stated in the terms & conditions).
In some cases, you may have the right to withdraw free of costs: When extraordinary circumstances occur at your destination, which
- could not have been estimated or avoided,
- and significantly affect
- the realisation of the journey
- or your transportation to the destination.
If those are the circumstances, you don’t have to pay a cancellation fee. However, you are not entitled to any other compensation.
Withdrawal of the tour operator
The tour operator can withdraw free of costs as well, for example if the minimum amount of participants could not be reached within the deadline, or if extraordinary circumstances make it impossible for him to fulfill the contract.
A dirty hotel room, a pool that can’t be used, a beach that is much farther away than promised? If the journey is not at all what you expected and was described in the booking confirmation, the right reaction is essential.
Defects at your destination have to be reported to the tour operator as soon as you notice them. The best way to do so is in written form, either via e-mail or fax. If available, also report it to the representative of the tour operator at the hotel and ask for a written confirmation of your complaint.
Furthermore it is advisable to make photos and videos. It is not sufficient to just make a complaint to the hotel receptionist!
If you don’t make an immediate complaint, it may be considered as contributory negligence.
If you have booked your journey at a travel agency, you can also send the complaint there. The intermediary is obliged to forward your report to the tour operator. To be on the safe side, we strongly recommend that you always contact the tour operator yourself as well, like explained above.
Remedy on-site, price reduction
As soon as you notice a defect, give the tour operator a deadline until when he should correct it. It may be sufficient to just move to another room or hotel.
If the trader is unable or unwilling to assist you within the time limit, you can independently seek a remedy. You could e.g. move to another hotel that fits the category described in the booking confirmation and later request a reimbursement of costs from the tour operator.
If the journey can’t be provided as booked, the tour operator has to offer alternatives. If it is impossible to provide equivalent remedies of the defects, you may be entitled to a price reduction. You can only decline the offered alternative or price reduction if it is not equivalent or appropriate.
Withdrawal from contract due to defects
If a defect has significant affects on the provision of the journey and the tour operator is unable to correct it within the given time limit, you can withdraw from the contract free of costs.
If your transportation was part of the package, the tour operator has to cover your journey back home. In some cases, you may also be entitled to compensation.
Besides the "normal" claims for damages (e.g. additional costs due to the fault of the tour operator), you may request compensation for lost holiday enjoyment if the defects were substantial.
Air travel: Luggage problems
Claims regarding damaged, lost or delayed luggage during flights are regulated by the Montreal agreement. It constitutes strict time limits until when you have to report the damage or failed arrival of your luggage, as well as liability limits. Those regulations also apply to tour operators and package travels.
Find out more in our article Baggage claims.
Impossible home journey due to force majeure
Natural disasters, strikes etc. are unfortunately happening more and more often. If your homeward journey is impossible due to unavoidable extraordinary circumstances, the tour operator has to covert he costs for your longer stay at the destination. However, there are some limitations:
- The hotel for the additional days is in the same category as the one(s) of the package travel you booked.
- The tour operator provides payment for a maximum of three nights.
The tour operator will only pay for a longer time period if a Regulation of the EU regarding passenger rights (bus, ship, rail or air travel) with other provisions applies. Furthermore, the limitation to three nights does not apply to persons with specific needs (e.g. minors travelling alone, pregnant women, persons with reduced mobility).
Complaint after return
If the tour operator didn’t correct the defects during your stay, you can request a price reduction or the reimbursement for any additional costs that occurred because of your individual remedy. Furthermore, you may be entitled to compensation for lost holiday enjoyment.
We recommend that you send your claims as a letter or e-mail directly to the tour operator. If you booked the journey at a travel agency, you can send it there as well. The intermediary is obliged to forward your complaint to the tour operator.
Tips and assistance from your ECC
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.