Because the Act on Travel Service Combinations will replace the former Package Travel Act on 1 July 2018, the general terms and conditions for package tours have also been renewed. The new general terms and conditions for package tours, negotiated by the Consumer Ombudsman and the Association of Finnish Travel Agents (SMAL/AFTA), define the minimum level of reasonable contract terms. Tour operators may offer even better conditions for consumers. The standard terms and conditions supplement the legal provisions and apply in situations presumed to result in most disputes, such as changing the contract, defects and cancellation of trips.
The general terms and conditions for package tours apply to the travel packages referred to in the law, which include combinations of at least two different travel services purchased at an inclusive price. Travel services include flights and other transport, accommodation, car rental and other additional services such as excursions. For example, a travel package can consist of flights and accommodation that were purchased at the same time or a boat trip and car rental that were booked at the same time.
The general terms and conditions for package tours are applied by AFTA member companies, responsible for the majority of travel package sales in Finland, but may be introduced by non-member companies as well. The standard terms and conditions apply to contracts concluded on or after 1 July 2018.
“We felt it was important to negotiate new standard terms and conditions for an industry in which a very high number of contracts is concluded every year. The terms and conditions prevent disagreements and facilitate their resolution in situations where there is no response in the law,” says Consumer Ombudsman Antti Neimala.
“The travel package legislation is cumbersome and complex for companies in the industry, and from the beginning of July, it applies to an increasing number of operators and tours. This clear operating environment, created through the terms and conditions in collaboration with the authorities, is one in which companies know how to act and therefore important for tourism companies,” comments Heli Mäki-Fränti, Managing Director of SMAL/AFTA.
Amendments to the right to cancel
The new law will provide consumers with broader right of cancellation. Consumers will have the right to cancel a travel package agreement without special reasons at any time before the start of the trip. However, in the event of a cancellation, the tour operator has the right to charge the consumer an appropriate cancellation fee that must be paid even if the consumer has a justified reason for cancelling the trip, such as the consumer’s own severe illness or accident or that of their next of kin. Previously, consumers typically only had to pay a administrative fee in such situations.
The new terms and conditions for travel packages have a standardised cancellation fee, depending on the stage at which the consumer cancels the trip. This way, the amount of the cancellation fee is known in advance and does not need to be determined on a case-by-case basis each time. In practice, consumers should always take travel insurance that covers cancellations, to reduce financial risks, for example in cases of illness.
However, consumers will continue to have the right to cancel their trip without any cancellation fees if something unexpected, such as a natural disaster, takes place at the travel destination and significantly affects the implementation of the agreed travel plans.
General terms and conditions of package travel (applicable to contracts concluded on or after 1 July 2018)
Consumer Ombudsman / Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
Assistant Director Katri Väänänen, tel. +358 29 505 3192, email@example.com
Association of Finnish Travel Agents (SMAL/AFTA)
Managing Director Heli Mäki-Fränti, tel. +358 9 4133 3550, firstname.lastname@example.org