Consumer Authority wins initial proceedings commenced by a petition
The Consumer Authority has won the first special initial proceedings commenced by a petition that it initiated. The case in question was submitted against a travel provider that did not comply with the statutory obligation to provide a guarantee when offering package tours. The Consumer Authority submitted this case to the Court of Appeal in The Hague. The Court of Appeal ruled that the company Gold Travel in Hilversum still had to make arrangements to provide a guarantee scheme or had to stop providing package tours, and failure to comply would render it liable to a penalty. The company must publish a statement regarding the court's decision on its website. Over the next few months, the Consumer Authority is planning to bring a further ten such tour operators whose guarantee scheme is not in order before the courts.
Guarantees within the travel sector
Tour operators who offer package tours have a legal obligation to make arrangements in the event that they become insolvent and those arrangements take the form of the travel guarantee. This means that travellers who have already paid their travel costs in full will get their money back if the travel company goes bankrupt. Travellers who are already travelling will be returned home. This issue was on the Consumer Authority's agenda in 2007 and 2008. Most tour operators have arranged their guarantee scheme via the Travel Bookings Compensation Fund [Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden, SGR]. Following various campaigns by the Consumer Authority, a small group of travel companies turned out still not to have their guarantee scheme in order by the time that the deadline had expired. These companies are now being summoned to appear before the court. In addition, consumers must also stay alert and find out for themselves what measures the travel provider has put in place to protect the consumer in the event that the company goes bankrupt. Tour operators are required to declare what measures they have put in place.
Administrative and civil law enforcement
On the basis of the Consumer Protection Enforcement Act [Wet handhaving consumentenbescherming ] and depending on the type of violation, the Consumer Authority is able to implement administrative or civil law enforcement. In administrative law cases, the Consumer Authority is able to impose fines in its own right, whereas in civil law cases, the Consumer Authority may request the opinion of the court by means of special proceedings commenced by a petition. The rules governing the travel sector guarantee scheme are enforced by means of civil law. Gold Travel may still lodge an appeal in cassation against the jugdment.