By contrast, travel services not covered by the main strand of regulatory debate (i.e. not qualifying as transport by air, rail, bus or coach, or as a package tour) have long escaped EU attention, partly for competence reasons. This has slightly changed when online travel platforms, such as Booking.com, Airbnb and Uber, entered the scene. First, the new Package Travel Directive of 2015 promised to take account of the ongoing developments in online travel markets. Second, in 2016 the European Commission adopted its agenda on collaborative economy, highlighting, among others, the associated challenges for consumer protection. Five years later, however, the EU law continues to have little to offer to consumers who plan their trips via online travel platforms. The 2015 Package Travel Directive (PTD) and its concept of linked travel arrangements (LTAs)* appears to complicate the regulatory landscape without bringing significant value to consumers, and travel platforms are only marginally affected (and some of them not at all - like Uber) by the recent work streams on consumer protection and online platforms. Finally, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on EU travel law is yet to be seen, but a renewed focus on the well-established fields of EU travel law seems likely.
Report on the Package Travel Directive
The report begins with some illustrative stats. It notes that "in
2017, packages represented around 9% of all tourism trips of EU27
residents and had a share of around 21% of the total tourism
expenditure." More recent numbers are not provided and even those
given are not put into perspective, e.g. taking into account the
corresponding shares of various stand-alone services and related trends.
To its credit, the report does recognize that the concept of a 'linked travel arrangement' and its distinction from a 'package' are somewhat problematic. In particular, with regard to 'click-through bookings' it seems very difficult to establish whether a package, an LTA or none of them was concluded. As the Commission admits:
"A travel service provider who, after completion of a booking, transfers the traveller’s name, payment details and e-mail address to another trader with whom a second service is booked within 24 hours of the confirmation of the first booking, is the organiser of a package and hence liable for the performance of both services. If one of those data elements is not transferred, the first trader facilitates a LTA and is only liable for the performance of its own service, provided the second booking happens within 24 hours. If it happens later, the PTD is not applicable at all" (p. 6). [Of course, there is also no LTA where the contract conclusion was facilitated for just one travel service, e.g. transport or accommodation. - AJ]
The report further points out that concerns have been raised as to what kind of obligations should be placed on the traders facilitating LTAs. These, for the time being, concern primarily insolvency protection and pre-contractual information. As regards the latter, several industry stakeholders argued that the information LTA facilitators are required to provide "could be considered confusing and deterrent, as travellers are primarily informed that they do not benefit from rights applying to packages" (p. 7). The Commission responded that it "was precisely the aim of this information requirement to draw the attention of consumers to the different level of protection offered by packages as opposed to LTAs and thus give them an informed choice between the two models." It is likely that a similar logic applied to the information duty which was recently added in Article 6a of the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), concerning a different standard of protection in business-to-consumer (B2C) and peer-to-peer (P2P) contracts concluded via online marketplaces.
Thomas Cook bankruptcy and COVID-19 pandemic