Previously, booking a holiday online through companies such as ebookers and On the Beach meant you were not protected if a supplier went into liquidation or industrial action led to you missing part of your holiday – instead customers had to rely on their travel insurance and ensure this cover was included in their policy.
Online agents argued that the responsibility of refunding customers if something went wrong did not lie with them, as each element of the holiday i.e. flights, accommodation and car hire etc. created its own contract between the customer and the supplier and the responsibility fell to the company providing the service.
From July 1st 2018 this is changing; customers who buy each component of their holiday through a single website, call centre or shop will be entitled to the same rights as those who buy a package holiday through a travel agent such as Thomas Cook and TUI.
The change will mean if a company was to go into liquidation, similar to Monarch in 2017, the customer will be entitled to a full refund or, if they are already abroad, be brought back to the UK with the sole responsibility for this lying with the online agent and not the individual suppliers.
In addition, customers will be entitled to claim for loss of expenses if they miss part or all of their holiday due to adverse weather or industrial action.
The increased protection is likely to cause a rise in the number of people booking holidays through online agents, so it is important that customers make sure they are booking through a legitimate website, and not being caught out by online scams and fake sites.
Although the changes will mean customers may not have to claim on their travel insurance for loss of expenses, it is still essential and should not be overlooked. Travel insurance will offer cover for cancellation, curtailment and medical expenses as well as additional protection for activities, personal possessions and loss of passport. When buying a policy, customers should ensure they are reading read the policy document carefully and make sure it offers the cover they need.
Any holidays booked before the new laws are due to come into place on 1st July 2018 will not be protected.