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Netherlands Consumer Authority: protection of travel consumers is not universal

The Consumentenautoriteit (Netherlands Consumer Authority) has taken stock of the way in which the Dutch travel industry satisfies the statutory obligation to protect travel consumers who book package tours from financial loss in the event of bankruptcy.

The vast majority of travel companies satisfy this obligation by joining the Dutch travel expenses guarantee fund 'Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden' (SGR). Of the package providers who are not affiliated with the SGR, 55% indicate that they have taken no measures to protect the consumer against financial loss, while 45% say they have taken measures. Many of these travel providers are not aware of their statutory obligations (64%).

Approximately 600 of the travel companies in the Netherlands that offer consumers package tours are not affiliated with the SGR. Together they provide over 180,000 trips a year with a turnover of some € 370 million.

Marije Hulshof of the Consumentenautoriteit: "Our conclusion on the basis of this inventory is that we are faced with a serious problem. Consumers who purchase trips from travel companies that haven't arranged anything are at a risk of losing their money in the unfortunate event that the provider goes bankrupt. Although it concerns a minority of the travel providers, in absolute terms it involves a large number of trips and substantial amounts of money for the consumer. We have found that several hundred travel companies are not playing by the rules, and many businesses are not aware of their statutory obligations. This is reason enough for us to initiate a follow-up investigation, and to take enforcement action if necessary. For companies that indicate that they do have arrangements in place, we will check whether they are actually fulfilling their statutory obligations. We advise consumers who book a trip to enquire about the protection offered in the event of bankruptcy."

A package tour is a combination of pre-arranged travel services, which includes at least the travel and the accommodation, or one of the two plus another essential tourist service. The statutory protection against bankruptcy of providers of package tours entails that the provider must take measures to ensure that, in the event of bankruptcy, the consumer is refunded the cost of the trip paid in advance, or the trip is taken over by another travel provider. The tour operator must also make the measures taken public.