Going on holiday? That's what you think

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The Independent Online
TRADING standards officers say travel agents on the brink of collapse are taking money for holidays that will never take place, writes Paul Gosling.

A European Commission directive designed to improve travel industry standards is failing to provide protection because there are not the resources to enforce it, they add.

The EC directive has meant that from the beginning of this year tour operators have been supposed to comply with more stringent controls, designed to ensure that holidays conform to their brochures. If operators raise prices the customer can insist on a full refund or an equivalent holiday at the same price. Price increases are allowable only in restricted circumstances, and not less than 30 days before the holiday.

This has a limited effect on the British travel market as it is broadly in line with the guarantees provided by Abta members, which sell 90 per cent of package holidays abroad. The regulations implementing the directive allow agents and operators alternatives to membership of a bonding scheme such as Abta's, by either taking out insurance, or by operating separate accounts for deposits. The concern is that some smaller businesses may fail to comply.

Industry experts say that the directive's good intentions have been ruined by giving the job of enforcement to overworked trading standards officers.

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