Online holiday booking to get new protections

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HOLIDAYMAKERS who book trips on the internet will get new protections so they are not left stranded abroad or lose money if their travel firm goes bust.

In a sign of the UK government’s commitment to helping consumers and ensuring people get the same protections online as on the High Street, the first Bill to be debated in the Commons since the Queen’s Speech will give more holidaymakers coverage under the ATOL protection scheme.

The new legislation will ensure ATOL protection extends to passengers who book flights, hotels or car hire that are not sold as package holidays.

The move will cover a gap in the growing internet travel market by bringing up standards to those expected on the High Street.

From 2018, when holidaymakers book a flight and are then directed by the airline to a separate company to book accommodation within 24 hours, the holiday will be covered by a government protection scheme.

ATOL was set up to protect consumers against travel companies going bust.

By law, all companies selling package holidays which include a flight must pay into a pot that can refund people who lose their holidays or, if needs be, bring them home if they are abroad when a company folds.

Announcing the measures, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This government is committed to making our country fairer by ensuring consumers have the protections they deserve both online and offline.

“Whether you book a well-earned getaway on the internet or the High Street should not make a difference to knowing you won’t be stranded or left out-of-pocket if something goes wrong.”

The ATOL Bill had its second reading in Parliament on Monday and is the first step in delivering a programme of improvements to the ATOL scheme.

The measures in the Bill ensure that government has the ability to set up appropriate protection that is flexible enough to handle the modern travel industry, by allowing the government to set up separate funds for different types of holiday product and booking method.

The changes recognise that today there are many different ways in which people book travel and holidays, and the government want to ensure that the right support is there for them if things go wrong.

It will also make it easier for UK businesses to sell air holidays across the EU, as they could offer consumers in Europe the same protection and peace of mind they offer in the UK.

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