Travel organisations have received confirmation there will be no further industry consultation before new package rules are put before Parliament at Easter.
Kirsten Green, deputy director of consumer policy and enforcement at the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), wrote to key industry bodies on Monday.
She confirmed the government will “lay the regulations” at Easter, leaving just six weeks for the industry to respond before new EU rules must be enforced by July.
A final consultation on the Package Travel Regulation (PTR) was expected, but Green’s letter says BEIS now plans to work with key stakeholders on guidance for businesses.
Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, was frustrated by the lack of consultation and also that the industry is still awaiting a response to last year’s BEIS consultation on draft regulations.
The BEIS letter promised it would issue a response to this consultation, but Moore said: “Frankly, it’s a bit of a bombshell when, as BEIS admits in its letter ‘business and consumer groups highlighted some complex concerns that required further in‑depth consideration’.
“It leads one to conclude that the government has decided what it is doing and not to involve the travel industry further, bar seeking help writing guidelines. I very much hope this does not prove to be the case.”
Moore added: “If we look firstly at the timeline. In August 2017, government gave the travel industry six weeks to prepare submissions to it on the new PTRs.
“In February 2018, five months later, they tell us in their letter of February 12 that they ‘value the feedback from our stakeholders’ and that they are going to lay the regulations post Easter.
“That will be six months after they gave us six weeks to respond to them. And the regulations will be laid just seven weeks after the BEIS letter of yesterday.”
Moore said the BEIS letter refers to the fact that that the government has undertaken “further work since the consultation”, but he added:
“But the industry has no idea what work BEIS has done over the past five months, or what conclusions it has formed.
“It would be really useful to know exactly what they are planning to do, apart from not, it appears, delivering the further consultations that we had expected and which they notably don’t mention.
“And then there is the fact already mentioned that government has not yet given its response to the consultation carried out last August/September.
“Ms Green kindly states: ‘We will also be providing the government response to the consultation as soon as possible’, but this lack of update so close to the date of implementation does not remotely help the travel industry.
“We would respectfully suggest that, firstly, government should give the industry its response to the consultation of last August/September.
“Secondly, it would be courteous to let the industry know what the conclusions of BEIS are, having evidently worked on the industry’s submissions for the past five months, before it proceeds to lay the regulations at just seven weeks’ notice and in the absence of any industry input whatsoever.”
Alan Bowen, legal adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, described the timescales to implement the new PTRs as “completely and utterly unrealistic”.
“This is unacceptable. It’s just ludicrous. You cannot implement this without consultation on what the effect is going to be. This requires quite in-depth consideration.
“There is still so much work to do. We also have new data protection regulations in May, we are up to our eyes as it is.
“They have to say implementation is delayed. We don’t want to see implementation until the end of the year at the earliest.
“If this results in claims against government for not enforcing an EU directive, they will have only themselves to blame.”
Chris Photi, senior part at White Hart associates and a leading advisor on Atol regulations, described the letter from BEIS as “unusual”.
“We are still going get these draft package travel regulations but they don’t want to issue a formal consultation because they don’t have time.
“Because they have had a consultation they are not required to consult again, but the gist is they are going to engage key stakeholders one to one to agree the guidance for the regulations.
“I have absolute sympathy with the industry on this. The industry has to be aware of what’s coming.”
Simon Bunce, Abta director of legal affairs, confirmed the new PTR will be published in April, just three months before implementation, after a January deadline was missed.
He said: “We have been told by government that it will lay the PTRs after Easter and that it intends to work with stakeholders, including Abta, to develop guidance that will support the regulations.
“The UK government missed the EU’s deadline of January 1 for publishing the new PTR, and now it will be April before industry gets the final regulations – just three months before they are due to come into force in July.
“The government has also said that it will be working to provide guidance for the travel industry, which is helpful, but the very tight timescale still presents a significant challenge for businesses.
“Once the final regulations are published, we will be working hard to make sure members understand what they mean for their businesses and the steps they need to take.
“There will be updated guidance notes, webinars and an event specifically on what PTR means for travel agents.”
Abta added it has expected “further consultation on the draft regulations” but the letter from BEIS indicates that the industry may get “an earlier indication of the government’s thinking around some of the issues which need further clarification – such as Linked Travel Arrangements”.
The association added that the industry is also still waiting for the consultations on revised Atol Regulations and Standard Terms from the CAA, and it understands the intention is to issue these this month.
This is a community-moderated forum.
All post are the individual views of the respective commenter and are not the expressed views of Travel Weekly.
By posting your comments you agree to accept our Terms & Conditions.