Consumer rights and package holidays
Under consumer legislation in Ireland, a package holiday is a pre-arranged holiday that consists of at least 2 of the following:
- Accommodation and
- A tourist service or activity that is not directly linked to transport or accommodation, but makes up a significant part of the cost and package and is organised by the package organisers. Examples of this activity or service including fishing, golf, tennis, hill-walking, etc.
Your package holiday must be pre-arranged and is sold at an inclusive price, must last for a period of at least 24 hours or includes an overnight stay. It does not matter if you are asked to pay separately for different components of the package (i.e., the flight or travel), you holiday still remains a "package holiday".
However, arrangements made by a tour operator or travel agent specifically for an individual consumer's requirements (i.e., separate accommodation or alternative arrangements to those covered and included in the brochure) are not regarded as package holidays. Similarly, a holiday which you put together yourself is not regarded as a package holiday. Where you are booking a package holiday over the internet, you should check whether Irish consumer legislation covering package holidays applies to it.
The information provided in your holiday brochure must not be false or misleading. If you enter into a contract, (and it is important to remember that this is a contract) on the basis of what is in the brochure, you may claim damages if the information is incorrect.
Travel agents and tour operators
Your package holiday is organised primarily by a tour operator, organiser or retailer. A tour operator is the person who acts as the principal person in relation to overseas travel, which it arranges for the purpose of selling (or offering for sale) to the general public.
A retailer in the context of a package holiday, is usually a travel agent. Travel agents sell packages to consumers, which are generally put together beforehand by a tour operator. A travel agent is the person who acts as agent by selling or offering to sell to, or purchase overseas travel on behalf of, the public on a commission basis.
The Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995 requires tour operators and travel agents to protect you in the event of their becoming insolvent (bankrupt).
The Commission for Aviation Regulation licenses travel agents and tour operators in Ireland. All tour operators and travel agents are required by law to enter into a bond before they are licensed. This bond protects the interests of the customer and means that if the travel agent or tour operator becomes bankrupt, the Commission then administers the bond. This usually involves the Commission assessing individual claims from customers of the failed tour operator or travel agent, making refunds to customers who have purchased holidays and where necessary, arranging for customers who have been unable to begin or complete their holiday to be brought home.
Every customer must receive a copy of the contract and every contract must contain:
- The destination and the period of the holiday
- The cost of the holiday
- The mode of transport - information provided must include times, dates and places of departure and return.
- The location and category of the accommodation and its compliance with the law of the EU Member State in question
- The meal plan, if any
- Cancellation arrangements ( for example, where a minimum take up is required for a package holiday to come into being in the first place)
- Details of cancellations
- Itinerary of any excursions included
- Contact details of the tour operator, travel agent or retailer or, if appropriate, the insurer
- Price and payment schedule, if applicable
- Any tax or compulsory charges
- Any special or exceptional requirements, which the consumer has asked for and have been accepted by both parties to the contract
- The complaints procedure for the consumer if the tour operator fails to carry out its part of the contract
In addition, before the contract is concluded, your must be given some other important information:
- Information about passport and any visa requirements
- Health formalities (i.e., if you are required to have any special vaccinations or health advice)
- Special arrangements in place in the event of unforeseen events for repatriation (returning home) and the security of money paid over in the event that the tour operator becomes bankrupt
- Insurance requirements. If insurance is compulsory as part of your package holiday, you must be told this along with the minimum level of cover needed. It is important to remember that you cannot be forced to take out the tour operator's or travel agent's insurance. Where insurance is optional, your tour operator must, if it has information that would help you to decide whether to insure or not, give this information to you.
How to apply
Making a complaint
It is important to read through the terms and conditions of your package holiday contract. Your contract will outline the procedures in place for dealing with complaints, it will confirm to whom you should make your complaint and it will outline the way in which complaints should be made (i.e., in writing, etc.).
If you have a complaint while on holiday, you should report the problem at once to your local holiday representative or organiser in the vicinity.
The tour operator must compensate you for any shortfalls in the service that it provides - between what was originally due and what was actually provided.
The tour operator should be given the opportunity to remedy the situation, at no extra cost to you.
If you are not satisfied that the matter has been resolved, you should gather as much evidence as possible to support your case while on holidays, including taking photographs or video footage (if possible).
If you are not satisfied that the complaint has been dealt with properly when you return from the holiday, you must lodge a complaint in writing to the tour operator - within 28 days from the date of completion of the package holiday contract.
If it does not respond within a reasonable time, you should send a second letter of complaint.
If you are still not satisfied with the operator's response, you can take the complaint to the Small Claims Court for a small non-returnable fee if your claim does not exceed €2,000. Queries in relation to your Small Claims Court application should be addressed to your local District Court.
Most package holiday contracts state that claims above this Small Claims Court limit may be pursued through arbitration.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is empowered to oversee the enforcement of Irish legislation governing package holidays and to identify breaches of this legislation (i.e., misleading advertising, inaccurate brochures, etc.). The CCPC cannot bring proceedings on behalf of a citizen.
Cancellation of the holiday by the organiser or operator
If the organiser or operator cancels the holiday or alters a term of the contract, including the price or type of accommodation, the consumer must be given the option of one of the following:
- A replacement holiday of equivalent or superior quality
- A lower grade holiday, with a reimbursement of the difference in price
- A full refund
No price changes are allowed within 20 days of the departure date.
The organiser has the right to cancel the package due to factors out of its control, such as an act of God, or where it has failed to get the number of people that was required for the package.
Transferring a holiday
To transfer a package holiday to another person, the consumer must give reasonable notice to the organiser. Both the original purchaser of the holiday and the party to whom it is being transferred are jointly liable for payment or the balance of payment of the holiday or for any other costs involved.
Where to apply
You can check that your tour operator or travel agent is licensed and bonded here or contact:
Further consumer information about package holidays and your rights is available from:
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
PO Box 12585
Opening Hours:- Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm
Tel:(01) 402 5555
Locall:1890 432 432
Fax:(01) 402 5501