Dispute over data transfer delays new Package Travel Directive

Dispute over data transfer delays new Package Travel Directive

A dispute over the legal definition of ‘assisted travel arrangements’ which will bring click-through sales between websites within the Package Travel Directive (PTD) held up agreement on a new Directive last week.

Trilogue negotiations between the European Competitiveness Council, European Parliament and European Commission stalled on the definition as MEPs sought to bring the arrangements (ATAs) within the definition of a package and the Council resisted.

However, a resolution is on the cards, with click-through transactions which involve the transfer of specified customer data set to fall within the definition of a package.

That is the view of Abta head of public affairs Stephen D’Alfonso (pictured), who told the annual Abta Travel Law Seminar yesterday: “I would bet we will still have an agreement by July 1.”

D’Alfonso said: “The Parliament is keen to get the definition of click-throughs into the package [clauses of the directive]. The European Council is keen to keep them out.

“It’s likely Council will win the day, but Parliament will keep the definition of click-throughs within the ATA [clauses].”

Most click-through arrangements are offered by airline sites to partners offering accommodation and the draft directive includes these within the definition of an ATA.

Abta has lobbied to have such arrangements brought within the definition of a package which would confer liabilities and costs comparable to those on tour operators.

But airline association Iata and ETTSA, the association representing leading online travel agencies (OTAs), have sought to have click-throughs left out of either definition.
Iata, ETTSA and other groups called in mid-April for a halt to the trilogue discussions and for the ATA clauses of the directive to be re-drafted.

Tui Travel UK general counsel Pete Baxter told the seminar in London that the dispute was “all about the transfer of data”.

The European Parliament’s representatives want click-through transactions involving the transfer of a traveller’s name or payment details or email address defined as a package.

The Council insists only click-throughs involving the transfer of all three - the traveller’s name and payment details and email address - defined as a package.

Baxter said: “Parliament does not like the cumulative effect of these three tests and wants a much wider definition to bring more into the scope of protection.”

He said: “Competitors operating in the same market, offering essentially the same, should be regulated in the same way. Consumers should be offered the same rights [however they book].”

However, Richard Downs, chief executive of Iglu.com and an Abta board member, said: “Consumers should be given a choice.”

Downs warned against “building a Maginot Line of protected holidays at higher cost” and said: “The ATA is an opportunity for consumers to understand what they are buying – ‘if you buy this, it’s cheaper but you don’t get protection’. That is a great solution if done properly.”

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