‘Consumers should share burden of Covid cancellations’

Consumers should bear half the cost of pandemic holiday cancellations, according to a leading German travel lawyer. Professor Ernst Führich has

proposed the German government uses its current presidency of the EU to modify consumers’ rights to refunds on package holidays to reduce the burden on operators of Covid cancellations. Führich has called for reform

of the EU Package Travel Directive (PTD) to make consumers liable for 50% of the costs of cancellation. The professor of travel law

wrote an open letter to the German federal minister of justice and

consumer protection last month suggesting travellers bear 50% of the cancellation costs due to a pandemic, arguing consumers know “the health risks [when] booking international package tours”. He noted that operators “alone

bear all financial risk” while consumers are fully protected despite having “their eyes open”. He wrote: “It seems unreasonable

. . . to let the risks of a pandemic be borne by the operator alone.”

Professor Führich

German court rules in favour of customer in cancellation case

A German court has ruled a customer is entitled to a full refund after cancelling a holiday due to Covid-19 regardless of whether a government travel warning was in place. The district court of Frankfurt

interpreted German regulations based on the EU Package Travel Directive (PTD) to mean a firm must refund a client who cancels a booking due to “a health-threatening spread of the coronavirus”. The customer who brought

the claim cancelled a trip to Italy on March 7 due to the developing pandemic. They had been due to depart on April 14. The German foreign ministry only issued a travel warning on March 17.

The operator charged a

cancellation fee and the customer went to court claiming a full refund due to “exceptional circumstances” in the destination. The court upheld the complaint,

ruling that what mattered were the circumstances on March 7, not when the travel warning was issued. The UK Package Travel

Regulations (PTRs) repeat the PTD wording entitling a customer to a full refund “in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity and significantly affecting the performance of the package or . . . the carriage of passengers to the destination”.

EC supports ‘traffic-light’ system Ian Taylor

The European Commission has called for “more clarity and predictability” on travel restrictions, urging European governments to agree common criteria and coordinate their actions. The EC noted “a wide discrepancy”

between EU countries’ criteria for restrictions and proposes a traffic-light system for categorising areas along with common measures for handling travellers from “high-risk” regions and “clear and timely information”. It urged EU members to use the

same criteria, based on the number of new Covid cases per 100 000 people in a given area within 14 days, the percentage of positive tests in the area over seven days and the total number of tests per 100 000. The EC suggested member

states supply this data weekly and

“at a regional level” to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) “to ensure measures can be targeted to regions”. The commission proposes

restrictions should not apply to EU arrivals where the number of new Covid cases in an area is less than 50 per 100 000 people or the percentage of positive Covid tests is less than 3%. The data would go to produce a colour-coded map, updated weekly,

showing a region’s status with: Q Green for areas with fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 and less than

3% of tests positive; Q Orange for areas with fewer than 50 new cases but positive tests above 3% or up to 150 new cases but

positive tests below 3%; Q Red for areas where new cases or positive tests fall outside these parameters; and grey where there is insufficient information.

The EC proposed travellers from

areas classified ‘red’ or ‘grey’ undergo quarantine or a Covid-19 test after arrival, and suggested governments also require travellers from ‘orange’ areas to undergo a Covid test prior to departure or on arrival. It urged member states to “provide

details of upcoming restrictions or the lifting of travel restrictions” weekly with “changes notified a week before entering into force”. The proposals will go to the

European Council “with the aim of adoption in the coming weeks”. The UK would not be party

to the proposal but could agree to cooperate on it. Ylva Johansson, the EU’s

commissioner for home affairs, said: “We want a clear ‘green, orange, red’ system and not a kaleidoscope of

individual measures.” i Get Social, page 27

10 SEPTEMBER 2020 39

EU countries are being urged to adopt common criteria for Covid-19 testing

PICTURE: Shutterstock

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