European Travel Directive

German online agents warn of higher prices

The forthcoming revised European Travel Directive could lead to higher prices for consumers, major online travel retailers in Germany are warning.

In early May, representatives of the European Parliament and EU member states agreed on a revised directive to update the existing one from 1990. The final compromise came on the issue of so-called ‘click through’ online bookings. This refers to bookings made on one website (e.g. an airline website), during which the customer is redirected to another website (e.g. hotel or car rental websites). Under the compromise, such bookings will be regarded as travel packages in future.

The agreement now needs to be formally approved by the EU Parliament and the 28 EU member states, which have to adopt the regulation in national law within the next two years.

But Germany’s Internet Travel Sales Association (Verband Internet Reisevertrieb – VIR) has warned that the current draft document leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Until now, a tour operator was defined as a company selling at least two different travel products or services for one final price. In future, though, an online portal or traditional travel agent could become liable if they sell two products in two separate stages, the association pointed out.

VIR president Michael Buller warned: “With the new rules, the market will not only become more confusing but also more expensive. The supplier will have to pass on the costs for additional insurance to customers if he doesn’t want to or cannot reduce his margin.” He added: “At the moment, for consumers it looks more like less service, higher prices and greater confusion.”

The German Travel Association (DRV) has already warned there are diverse issues that still need to be clarified. The definition of click through bookings leaves it partly unclear what kind of online bookings are covered, and which are excluded.