By Evie Andreou
THE HOUSE plenum has unanimously voted two bills aiming to harmonise national legislation with that of the EU as regards services offered to travellers and safeguarding the rights of consumers buying package deals.
MPs also unanimously voted for the abolition of the previous legislation on organised trips and tours and voted the amended laws on consumer protection so that national law is harmonised with EU Directive 2015/2302 also known as Package Travel Directive. Cyprus was obliged to harmonise with the directive in question by January 1, 2018.
According to a report filed by the House energy, trade and tourism committee to the plenum prior to the voting, the new law aims at achieving maximum consumer protection for travellers when it comes to contracts they sign with travel agents on package travel but also associated travel arrangements.
The bills introduce amendments that expand consumer protection concerning package travels, beyond the traditional packages to include other types of travel services.
The new legislation introduces provisions concerning what sort of information consumers should receive when booking package travels including their rights concerning cancellations, refunds, changes in agreed prices, complaints and reports of breach of contracts and repatriation.
This is also expected to benefit businesses offering travel services, the report said, on the one hand, a common legislative framework is applied throughout the European Union meaning mutual recognition of the protection of insolvency between businesses selling competing products within member states and on the other hand it is facilitating cross-border trade.
During discussion at committee level, representatives of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, hoteliers’ association Pasyxe, and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) said that even though they agree with the proposed arrangements, further amendments to the legislation should be made in the future to better regulate issues related to bookings of travel services over the internet.
The directive in question applies to three different types of travel combinations:
Pre-arranged packages – ready-made holidays from a tour operator made up of at least two elements: transport, accommodation or other services, e.g. car rental.
Customised packages – selection of components for the same trip or holiday by the traveller and bought from a single business online or offline.
Linked travel arrangements – looser combinations of travel services, for instance if the traveller, after having booked one travel service on one website, is invited to book another service through a targeted link or similar and the second booking is made within 24 hours. In such cases the traveller has to be informed that he/she is not being offered a package, but that, under certain conditions, his pre-payments will be protected.