The Package Travel Regulations (PTR) provide protection for consumers and set certain responsibilities for tour operators and travel agents. Essentially, the PTR gives you the right to expect the holiday that you booked and paid for. If the holiday doesn’t match the description in the brochure or on the website, you may have a claim for compensation.
When can you rely on the regs?
The PTR only applies to package holidays sold or offered in the UK. However, the member states of the EU have their own equivalent laws.
A package means two or more of the following when sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price:
- another tourist service which makes up a significant proportion of the package
The duration of the travel must also exceed 24 hours or include overnight accommodation.
This covers a wide range, for example, tailor-made holidays where you have selected separate components organized by and paid for together, business travel arrangements, educational weekends and school trips.
The PTR is unlikely to apply where there are two separate contracts, one with the airline and one with the accommodation provider. If you are unsure, always check with your provider.
What effect does the PTR have?
If your holiday meets the criteria, the tour operator must ensure that:
- Descriptive materials are not misleading.
- Brochures, if provided, are ‘legible, comprehensible and accurate’ and contain (in addition to price) certain important information.
- Contracts must be in writing and contain the same information about transport, dates, accommodation, food, and location as the brochure. If you have any special requirements agreed with the tour operator, there must be in the contract also.
Check if your tour operator is a member of ABTA. If so, the ABTA Code of Conduct compels the tour operator to notify provide you with accurate information about the extent of the works, if they could be reasonably be considered to seriously impair the enjoyment of the holiday.
This will not include minor refurbishment or maintenance which doesn’t affect your holiday. Ideally, the operator should provide you with this information before booking so you can decide whether to continue or not.
Most problems relate to the accuracy of the information provided relating to the extent of the building works.
Changes to a booked holiday
If the operator changes the contract they must notify you as quickly as possible and ask whether you agree on the alterations or wish to withdraw (without penalty).
Where changes are made after departure, meaning that a significant proportion of the services contracted for are not provided, the organizer must make suitable alternative arrangements for the continuation of the package and may compensate you for the difference between the services agreed and those supplied.
If it is impossible to make arrangements, or these are rejected by you for good reason, the organizer should provide you with equivalent transport back to the place of departure or to another place to which you have agreed and may compensate you.
Withdrawal from a holiday contract
If you withdraw from the holiday contract, or where the organizer cancels the holiday for any reason other than the fault of the consumer, you are entitled to:
- a package of equivalent superior quality;
- a package of lower quality plus the difference in price between what you paid for and that of the substitute; or
- a full refund of the price paid as soon as possible.
You may also be entitled to compensation for any expenses incurred as a direct result of the holiday being canceled.
Making a holiday compensation claim
There are three main categories for which a claim could be made:
- Loss of value – the difference between the sum you paid for the holiday and the value of the holiday you actually received.
- Out-of-pocket expenses – any reasonable expenses you incurred as a result of the breach of contract.
- Loss of enjoyment – compensation for the disappointment and distress caused by things going wrong.
Who to complain to?
- Holiday provider – If you are still on holiday, notify them and give them the opportunity to put things right. If you are still not happy with your return, check the company’s website for their complaints policy. Put your complaint in writing, explaining the problems you have encountered, the losses you have suffered as a result and what you want in terms of compensation.
- Trade association – If the provider does not respond or you are not happy with their response, contact the company’s trade association. Many package holiday companies are members of either ABTA or AITO. Check their websites for further information regarding making a complaint here and here.
Last resort – small claims court
If all else fails, you could issue a court claim against the holiday provider. However, court proceedings can be lengthy, expensive and will not necessarily result in immediate payment even if you are successful.
Disclaimer – The information on this website is for general guidance only and is not intended as legal advice. If you need more details on your rights or legal advice about what action to take, please contact a solicitor or other legal specialist in this area.