ATOL reforms to go "live" in April 2012
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-- A new category of "flight-plus" will be introduced. Holidays following into this category will now be ATOL protected. "Flight-plus" exists where a combination of a flight plus hotel / other accommodation or car hire are purchased within a set period (the various elements must be requested the day before, the same day or the day after).
-- Standard documentation will be issued at the time of booking to make it clear when an ATOL protected holiday is being booked. The certification requirements are being phased in and will apply from 1 October 2012.
This is great news for consumers, particularly at a time when not a week seems to pass without another tour operator collapsing.
ATOL offers protection to consumers in the event that the travel company they have booked with goes bust while they are on holiday or before they travel. The CAA administered scheme ensures refunds are provided and repatriations arranged.
There is still some way to go. The reforms are only concerned with financial protection of consumers / their money. We are some way off seeing an extension of the regime under the Package Travel Regulations whereby tour operators can be liable in certain circumstances when things go wrong in resort and while the consumer is on holiday. Such protection only applies to holidays which fit the legal definition of a package and this is an increasingly complex area for consumers; it will not necessarily apply where a "flight-plus" holiday has been booked.
The reforms to the ATOL scheme follow a period of consultation which was launched in the Spring 2012. The government has overshot its proposed timetable slightly as it originally intended the reforms to be in place before the peak booking season of 2012. However, given that booking numbers at the major UK tour operators are down, many more than usual could benefit this summer from additional protection if they choose to place a late booking after the reforms come in.
For further information, please contact Blake Lapthorn's Claims Abroad team on 023 8085 7423.
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