The Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU was approved by the European Parliament in October 2011. The CRD must be incorporated into national law by 13 December 2013 with provisions coming into force on 13 June 2014.

The CRD is a general law that will impact on all sales of goods and services (with some limited exceptions). The CRD’s focus is on:

  • Ensuring transparency of information, in particular with regard to pre-contractual information for distance and off-premises contracts (but also for other goods and services contracts)
  • Ensuring there is express consent from the consumer for any additional payments
  • Cancellation rights for distance and off-premises contracts
  • Prohibiting excessive fees for paying the trader
  • Prohibiting excessive phone charges for consumers contacting traders about existing contracts.

The CRD does not apply at all to package holidays; the cooling off period does not apply to any travel services. Some parts of the CRD apply to the sale of passenger transport services, accommodation and car rental.

Most of the provisions in the CRD are maximum harmonisation measures and this largely prohibits “gold plating” i.e. the UK Government cannot legislate over and above the EU legislation. However, the Government did consider elaborating on the wording where a “copy out” approach would lead to unacceptable uncertainty or lack of clarity for businesses and consumers.

In Autumn 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) ran two consultations on transposing the CRD into UK law. Both could be considered as “gold plating” to inter alia package travel:

  1. Applying the ‘express consent for additional payments’ provision (e.g. banning pre-ticked boxes which can add ancillary services to purchases) and requiring access to basic rate customer help lines (e.g. no premium rate numbers).
  2. Banning credit and debit card charges to consumers from being higher than the cost borne by the trader of processing these payments. The Government is seeing to bring this part in earlier than June 2014.

BIS has said that it intends to publish a government response to both in early 2013.

ABTA's position

ABTA has done a lot of work lobbying in Brussels to ensure that package travel was excluded from the scope of the CRD. We have also met with Ed Davey MP, former Consumer Affairs Minister and wrote to him to seek further assurance that the UK would not seek to gold plate the CRD. He has offered the assurance that Government would not seek to provide for a right of withdrawal on package travel and further suggested that as package travel is regulated by the Package Travel Directive, which is currently under review by the Commission, it should be excluded from the CRD.

ABTA has done a lot of work with the OFT and through the Code of Conduct Committee on the transparency of charges. ABTA responded to both the BIS consultations and put up a robust defence as to why package travel should be excluded.

Pending the outcome of the consultations, Members should seek advice from ABTA if they have any questions.

There are already rules in place disallowing pre-ticked boxes and requiring listing of optional charges, when selling flights online. The current legal requirement is that credit and debit card charges must be clearly and prominently stated in any advertising, shops, brochures and websites. If Members are selling online then the charge should be clearly displayed at the point the client makes payment, but also remember that all optional extra charges must be able to be seen by the client at the beginning of the booking process.

Guidance on this for Members can be found in our Business Support Manual.