Consumer Authority: more travel providers offering guarantees following campaign
In recent months the Netherlands Consumer Authority has investigated tour operators suspected of offering package holidays without the statutory guarantees. This campaign has caused businesses to modify their behaviour and/or to start to actively inform consumers. Bernadette van Buchem, Director of the Netherlands Consumer Authority, explains, ‘Having received signals from consumers, we reminded these businesses of their responsibilities. Many of the businesses have modified their behaviour. However, consumers must remain vigilant when booking their holidays.’
Consumers who book a package holiday with a tour operator that has not implemented travel guarantee measures may lose money if the tour operator encounters financial difficulties.
In January 2011, the Netherlands Consumer Authority announced that it would be launching a new campaign against tour operators offering package holidays without the statutory guarantees. As part of that campaign, the Netherlands Consumer Authority has written to around 60 businesses suspected of failing to offer travel guarantees, based on reports from consumers on ConsuWijzer, indications from the sector and other sources. Each of those businesses was then contacted in writing and offered the opportunity to respond.
The results of this campaign are as follows:
23 businesses have properly arranged their guarantees or have stopped offering package holidays;
26 tour operators have informed the Netherlands Consumer Authority that they will properly arrange their guarantees within the near future. Until then, they will keep their customers informed by way of notices on their websites;
7 businesses have not taken any measures. These are:
- Argan Avontuur in The Hague
- Elegant Travel in Amsterdam
- FP2000 in Eindhoven
- New Spirit Travel in Heiloo
- PTI – Tennisreizen in Amsterdam
- RHM BuitenSport in Voorburg
- Stedenreisburo.nl in Gouda
Although these businesses have not been found guilty by the judicial authorities of any violation, the Netherlands Consumer Authority nevertheless feels that consumers should be informed about this situation. Consumers booking a holiday through one of these businesses are exposing themselves to a risk. If these businesses do not take the necessary measures, the Netherlands Consumer Authority will seek to enforce compliance through judicial proceedings.
The Netherlands Consumer Authority will shortly be contacting a second group of travel providers suspected of not being compliant with the statutory guarantee system.
A travel guarantee is a statutory obligation for tour operators offering package holidays. The guarantee serves to ensure that consumers (will see prepayments/ deferred charges reimbursed) i.p.v. (do not loose any prepaid travel costs) if the travel provider becomes unable to meet its financial commitments. In those circumstances the travel guarantee also provides for return journeys for travellers who are already on holiday. Travel providers are required to actively inform their customers about what measures are in place. In the Netherlands, many businesses arrange their travel guarantees through the Travel Bookings Compensation Fund SGR (Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden). In recent years, the Netherlands Consumer Authority has acted on various other occasions against providers of package holidays that had not implemented the requisite measures.
Update 12 July 2011
The Netherlands Consumer Authority has determined that the website of Stedenreisburo.nl is no longer available and that package tours can therefore no longer be offered via this website. As a result, the Netherlands Consumer Authority has decided to stop the investigation into Stedenreisburo.nl.
Update 5 July 2011
Elegant Travel no longer offers package tours. As a result, the Netherlands Consumer Authority has decided to stop the investigation into Elegant Travel.
Update 25 november 2011
FP2000 no longer offers package tours. PTI is now joining the Travel Bookings Compensation Fund SGR. Argan Avontuur and New Spirit Travel have arranged temporary measures in wait of a new guarantee fund.