Planning a holiday is often a stressful time for consumers. Organising transport, accommodation and activities can be time consuming, particularly if not booked through a travel agent. If something does not go according to plan, this can distract you from the overall enjoyment of the trip. For this reason it is important that consumers are aware of their rights and entitlements before going away.
EU law guarantees certain rights for consumers throughout Europe. This includes legislation to protect travellers where flights are disrupted or a package does not turn out as planned. In 2004 an EU regulation was put in place to ensure certain minimum standards of care for air passengers where their flights are cancelled or delayed or they denied boarding. Under this regulation airlines must provide care and assistance to passengers, including information on their rights, meals and refreshments and accommodation, where an overnight stay becomes necessary. Depending on the circumstances, it is also possible for passengers on cancelled flights to seek compensation of up to €600 from the airline. The EU’s Court of Justice ruled in 2009 that passengers whose flights are delayed, such that they reach their final destination more than 3 hours after the scheduled time of arrival, may also be entitled to compensation. However, an airline is exempted from having to pay compensation where it can prove that the disruption was caused by extraordinary circumstances.
Package travellers have benefited from EU protection since the early 1990s. A dedicated EU directive, as transposed into Irish law by the Package Holidays and Travel trade Act 1995, sets out specific information which must be supplied to consumers before a booking is made. The legislation defines a package as a holiday that has been pre-arranged and sold at an inclusive price by a travel agent or tour operator, covering a period of more than 24 hours or an overnight stay and which comprises at lest two of the following three elements: flights, accommodation and/or additional service such as guided tours. Package travellers can turn to the agency’s local representative if something goes wrong while they are away. However, independent travellers, such as consumers who book each element of their holidays separately (such as flights and accommodation), do not currently enjoy the same level of protection. In this regard, third party, third party booking websites can lead to issues for customers. these are an increasingly common option as they allow prospective travellers to compare prices and deals but a booking made through these sites does not generally comprise a package within the meaning of the legislation.
EU legislation has also ensured that consumers are not charged excessive amounts for mobile roaming. As of July 1, 2014, the maximum operator can charge for roaming in the EU are 19 cent for making calls, 5 cent for receiving calls, 6 cent per text message and 20 cent per MB for data roaming. However, one key travel area currently not regulated at EU level is car rental. Hiring a car on holiday is a consistently popular option for consumers but it can have costly side effects.It is not always clear what exactly is included in the original rental quote and so consumers may end up paying extra for an additional driver, insurance or extras such as children’s car seats. If a vehicle is damaged during the rental pertiod, consumers may also be liable for the repair costs.
Other helpful tips for consumers this summer include:
1. Apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) through the HSE’s website-the card is free of charge.
2. Take out travel insurance for your trip but ensure you carefully read it.
3. Always read documentation and the terms and conditions of a contract before signing/making a booking. If booking through a third party booking site, consult the site’s terms and conditions as well as the service provider’s.
4. If you have a problem and incur additional expenses, keep receipts and where applicable,take photos.
5. When hiring a car, ensure you get sign out and return forms when picking up and returning the vehicle. Read the fuel, insurance and cancellation policies carefully and check for hidden extras!