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Verdict regarding package travel

Withdrawal after changes

A round trip through China, with all important sights - sounds amazing. But then the tour operator calls to tell you that the visits of two absolute highlights have been cancelled. What now?

This happened to a German couple who then told the tour operator that they didn't want to make the journey, withdrew from the contract and requested a refund of the already paid price. As the trader refused, they went to court. The German Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) now ruled in their favor and the tour operator has to reimburse them.

The verdict is based on the following legal regulation of the EU package travel directive:

  1. A significant alteration of any of the essential terms entitles the consumer to withdraw from a package travel contract without any penalty (like costs). The decision whether a term or service is essential AND an alteration is significant is made individually in each case.

Eine Änderung einer Pauschalreise ist nur dann zulässig, wenn:

A change of the package travel is only permitted if

  • the character of the journey stays the same and
  • the change is caused by circumstances which the tour operator could not have estimated at the time the contract was concluded.

As many traders do, the German tour operator in this case had a so called revision clause in his terms & conditions. However, he failed to comply with legal conditions, so the court decided that the clause was legally invalid. As a consequence, the assessment by the BGH about the significance of the changes to the tour was not as strict as usually.

What does this mean for consumers?

If you booked a package travel and something is being changed, you may not have to accept it. There is a chance that the changes entitle you to either a price reduction or even a withdrawal. The rule of thumb is: The more significant the change, the more likely it is that you will get your money back.

Unfortunately there are no exact legal terms about the extend of the change. Regarding the above mentioned verdict, the changes affected only a few hours of a 14-days journey, but at the same time two of the main attractions of China.

When your tour operator informs you before departure that the route, activities or accommodation changed, we recommend the following:

  • Decide if you want to make the trip regardless of the changes.

If not:

  • Carefully read the contract and the terms & conditions of the trader, especially regarding any alterations of the package.
  • Contact the tour operator and declare the withdrawal of the contract. Beware: Never write that you want to cancel! Cancellations are fee-based and can be costly.
  • Demand the refund of the price.
  • If the tour operator caused the changes, if they are his fault and could have been prevented, you can also request compensation for any travel costs that became unnecessary due to your withdrawal, like costs for visa, vaccinations and other preparations.

If you are unable to find a solution with the tour operator, you can contact us. Find our contact details at this link.

More information about the verdict is available in German language at the website of the BGH. Find out more about your rights in our section about package travel.

Please note: On July 1st 2018, the new package travel law (PRG) comes into force.

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