We remain concerned that important EU protections such as compensation for flight delays and freedom from mobile phone roaming charges are not guaranteed for UK consumers in a post-Brexit world.
Also, the requirement for mutual recognition of EU insolvency schemes creates a risk that UK consumers will have lower standards of protection when travel companies go bust. In essence, the huge consumer losses after the collapse of a non-UK tour operator could re-occur.
There could be a race to the bottom, with operators moving to member states with cheaper and lower insolvency protection. There are also significant questions in relation to the EU-wide civil justice system (post-Brexit) and to what extent UK consumers can enforce their rights abroad.
The legal framework applied by the EU to the package travel sector is undergoing significant changes. Brexit may be a way of ensuring that certain elements can be clarified and perhaps even removed from the proposals. As the UK will have control to change implementing regulations, improvements could be made for consumers, traders and regulators.
The opportunity also remains to align with EU protections and ensure British consumers are covered when travelling to the EU and further afield. Many benefits enjoyed by UK travellers, such as protection from timeshare and holiday club mis-selling, are EU in origin.
Leaving the EU will perhaps provide an opportunity to reduce consumer confusion by streamlining or removing the Linked Travel Arrangements concepts from the implementing regulations.
Perhaps more than most other sectors, consumers are likely to realise the Brexit impact on consumer law when they arrange to travel after March 2019. New EU protections on package travel reflect modern practices but they are complicated and may need simplifying after the UK’s exit.
Cross-border trading will be affected in various ways, not all of them positive. There are a number of major issues. These are: Insolvency Protections; Inadequate EU Protection; Linked Travel Arrangements; Timeshare; Compensation for Flight Cancellation and Delay; and Mobile Roaming Charges. The question remains to what extent these important protections can be retained after Brexit. There are many aspects of a consumer’s holiday and travel experience that cannot be unilaterally protected by the UK government umbrella when it is no longer part of the EU.
There is a growing and urgent need to clarify the status of EU agreements for UK travellers. Consumers need to know now whether they will be protected and compensated for cancellations and delays.
IN FOCUS: The right to roam
Charges for making calls abroad have been a problem for mobile phone users since the devices were invented.
These so-called roaming charges were often very expensive but an EU initiative changing telecoms rules meant they were abolished and consumers could effectively ‘roam like at home’. Such provisions have become very important for UK holidaymakers.
The government has set an ambitious target of ‘no less protection’ for consumers as the UK leaves the EU. Nevertheless, the ambition to leave the EU digital single market and questions over regulations requiring reciprocal agreement with the remaining EU 27 member states seem to provide significant barriers in reaching that goal.
In fact, it remains unclear whether the current charging regime can be retained.