Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Consumer Rights

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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562. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the recourse and rights a person has to cancel a package holiday and get a full refund for travel to the USA in June 2020 due to Covid-19 travel restrictions; if they are entitled not to pay the balance in order to get full refund once notice of cancellation is given; the statutory entitlements under Irish and EU laws for customers; the authority that has remit to investigate complaints that consumers may have in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5789/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Section 18A(4)(a) of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995 which gives effect to Article 12(2) of Directive (EU) 2015/2302 on package travel and linked travel arrangements provides that ‘the traveller shall have the right to terminate the package travel contract before start of the package in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity and significantly affecting the performance of the package, or which significantly affect the carriage of passengers to the destination’. Section 18(4)(b) provides that ‘where the traveller terminates the package travel contract under paragraph (a), the traveller shall –

(i) not be required to any termination fee,

(ii) be entitled to a full refund from the organiser of all payments made for the package

without undue delay’.

Section 18A(7) of the Act which gives effect to Article 12(4) of the Directive provides that the organiser of a package must make any refunds due to a traveller under section 18A(4) not later than 14 days after the package travel contract is terminated.

The Government’s Covid-19 Travel Advisory currently advises against ‘all non-essential travel overseas until further notice’.  The Government roadmap of 1 May for Reopening Society and Business provides that up to 20 July, people should travel no more than 20 kilometres from their home. It is clear accordingly that a person travelling to the USA on a package holiday in June 2020 has the right to cancel the package under section 18A(4) of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act and to receive a full refund of all payments made for the package.  Where this right applies, the traveller should not be required to pay the outstanding balance on the package in order to get a full refund of his or her payments. 

The Competition and Consumer Protection is responsible for the enforcement of section 18A of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995.  The Commission for Aviation Regulation has responsibility for the administration and enforcement of the insolvency protection provisions of the 1995 Act and related enactments, principally the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act 1982.

On 8 May, the Government approved a proposal from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for a State guarantee for refund credit notes to be issued by registered travel agents and tour operators for package holidays cancelled due to restrictions arising from Covid-19. The refund credit notes will be redeemable for their cash value at a specified date and can be used to book a replacement holiday. The choice to accept a guaranteed credit note or to receive a refund of payments will remain with the traveller. The necessary legislative provisions for the refund credit notes are currently being drafted.

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