Opinion: Get up to speed with new rules and regulations

Opinion: Get up to speed with new rules and regulations

Prepare for PTD and Atol reform as timings will be tight, says Simon Bunce, director of legal affairs at Abta

It’s been well documented in Travel Weekly – and a hot topic of conversation at Abta’s recent regional meetings – that things are more than a little delayed when it comes to the new Package Travel Directive (PTD).

The final regulations were supposed to be published by January 2018, but they finally emerged last week. I’ve scrutinised the regulations and much of it is what we had expected, but the drafting of the regulations isn’t as clear as it could be. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is still to publish its guidance, which will sit alongside the regulations – and I certainly encourage that to be provided sooner rather than later.

The other piece of the puzzle is the Atol reforms and regulations, and these are still to be published. It’s hard to know when they will come out, but my message is don’t sit back and wait. What has happened so far shows us schedules have slipped significantly, and while we don’t doubt that Atol regulations will be in place by July 1, timings are undoubtedly going to be tight. My message to the CAA is to focus on what is necessary for the introduction of PTD. Anything extra should come after implementation and be open to a full consultation with the industry. There is enough to do already without added extras – however well-intended.

Review your business now

Describing the delay as frustrating for the industry is an understatement, but the fact remains that businesses need to be ready by July 1, so if you’ve not started looking at this, get cracking.

For some firms the changes should be reasonably straightforward; but for others, particularly those who will take on new liabilities as package organisers, the changes will be significant.

Travel companies should urgently review their business and sales process to see if, under the Package Travel Regulations (PTR) 2018, you are organising packages. If you sell travel services that you have combined in any of the ways described under the new definition, you will be an organiser.

Tell customers what’s covered

What we’ve also learnt from recent announcements is that confusion among consumers is inevitable. There is a great risk that holidaymakers won’t necessarily appreciate that a lot of travel arrangements aren’t covered – and people can still travel without any level of financial or legal protection. Abta was quick to highlight last week that up to half of holiday travel arrangements may not be covered.

Linked Travel Arrangements (LTA) are also likely to be a cause of much confusion. Companies will need to take the time to check whether they will be providing an LTA under the new regulations. Travel providers will need to tell customers if they are providing a package or an LTA. If you do not tell the customer that you are providing an LTA, you may be faced with the liabilities of a package organiser.

Abta is working hard to ensure members understand what the final regulations mean and the steps they need to take. Visit abta.com/ptdhub to find our updated 12-step guide on PTR and other materials. We’re also holding an event for travel agents on May 1, which is open to non-members too.

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