With travel companies hailing an upsurge in 2013 holiday bookings after the UK summer from hell, new guidance is in the offing on the key requirements applicable to businesses that advertise or sell holidays and their component parts Mark Smith wishes you were there.
Topic: Consumer Protection
Who: Office of Fair Trading and the UK Civil Aviation Authority
When: 19 November 2012
Law stated as at: 7 December 2012
The Office of Fair Trading ("OFT") and UK Civil Aviation Authority ("CAA") have opened a consultation on draft guidance they have published for the travel sector on various aspects of consumer protection law.
The joint guidance covers both aviation specific legislation, including the Air Services Regulation 1000/2008, and general consumer protection legislation, such as the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. It aims to help the travel sector comply with these laws and raise awareness of its legal responsibilities. Both a short form and long form version have been produced.
Issues covered in the draft guidance include the following:
- clear, transparent and up front price display;
- the requirement to make clear which airline the customer is booking with;
- optional extras and the fact that they should be displayed on an opt-in basis rather than being pre-selected;
- the provision of information in an accurate and timely fashion; and
- the provision of clear, fair and balanced terms and condition.
The guidance also details the CAA and OFT's approach to enforcement if the law is breached.
Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director of the OFT's Goods and Consumer Group, commented: "Unfair business practices impact on both industry and consumers. The draft guidance has been designed to help those in the travel sector and their advisers understand what they need to do to comply with the law. Following its work on payment surcharges in the airline industry, the OFT is keen to ensure that the wider travel industry is aware of its responsibilities to its customers".
The consultation closes on Monday January 28th, with the final version of the guidance expected in 2013. After it has been issued, the CAA and OFT will commence a review of compliance in the sector and consider enforcement action in appropriate cases.
Why this matters:
The consultation indicates that the enforcement of consumer protection legislation in the travel sector will be a priority for the CAA and OFT in 2013. Businesses involved in selling travel to consumers would certainly do well to respond to the consultation to ensure their views are taken into account. Once the final guidance is issued, it would then be prudent for them to review their pricing practices, websites and advertising to ensure that they are complaint, otherwise they may be on the receiving end of CAA and/or OFT enforcement action.
The draft guidance is here.