On 31 December 2016, the new EU Directive on package travel and linked travel arrangements (EU No. 2015/2302) came into force.
The main aim of the new Directive is to ensure important consumer rights especially in cases where travel services are offered or sold via the internet. In order to take into account the possibility to combine travel services in many different ways, the new Directive extends the concept of "package" and also broadens the scope to linked travel arrangements.
Therefore the new Directive defines package as a combination of at least two different types of travel services, such as carriage of passengers, accommodation for non-residential purposes or the rental of cars or other motor vehicles for the purpose of the same trip or holiday. The package may either be combined by one trader (prearranged packages) or individually selected by the customer before a single contract on all services is concluded ("customized packages").
The new Directive also applies to linked travel arrangements which are services that are purchased from separate traders through linked online booking processes where the traveler's name, payment details and e-mail address are transmitted from the trader with whom the first contract is concluded to another trader or traders and a contract with the latter trader or traders is concluded at the latest 24 hours after the confirmation of the booking of the first travel service ("click through arrangements"). In cases where there are significant impairments on rendering one of these services, the customer is entitled to enforce a number of rights, such as requesting to be taken home in cases where the booked hotel is under construction at the time the customer arrives. Alternatively, the trader may offer an equal or better accommodation or has to pay compensation.
Further, this Directive also sets forth a number of important consumer rights with regard to information requirements. In order to comply with the pre-contractual information duties, the trader who can be the organizer or the retailer needs to inform the customer about all main characteristics of the travel services, all necessary contact information of the trader, the total price of the package including all taxes and additional fees, charges or other costs, the arrangements for payment and the minimum number of persons required for the package.
Further, the Directive extends a customer's right to terminate the contract free of charge in cases where the price of the package travel contract is increased by more than 8%. In order to ensure that travelers are fully protected against the trader's insolvency, the Directive foresees the trader's obligation to provide security for the refund of all payments made by, or on behalf of, the traveler, as well as for the traveler's repatriation.
All Member States of the European Union have to adopt and publish the laws and regulations necessary to comply with this Directive by 1 January 2018. These laws shall apply at the latest from 1 July 2018. On 28 February 2017, the Austrian Ministry of Justice published a bill adopting the Directive by implementing an Act on package travel and linked travel arrangements (Pauschalreisegesetz). The wording of this Act literally corresponds with the Directive but still may be altered or amended before it is passed by the Austrian Parliament. Currently it is not known when this Act will enter into force.