At this time of the year when the cold weather and dark evenings are becoming tiresome, a lot of us are considering where we can go for some reliable sunshine. But in these times of economic uncertainty, it is worth considering whether you have the consumer rights provided for by a package holiday.
Unlike travel and accommodation booked separately, a package holiday booking gives consumers the reassurance that if for example the airline goes bust or they become stranded abroad, their travel agent is responsible for sorting it out.
The Court of Appeal recently considered the definition of a package holiday in the case of Sean Titshall v Qwerty Travel Limited. Mr Titshall booked a last minute, all inclusive holiday for a week in Corfu through Qwerty Travel. He had found the holiday on a teletext advertisement and booked with Qwerty over the telephone the night before the flights were due to leave.
During his holiday, Mr Titshall sustained serious injuries as a result of falling through a sliding glass door in the hotel. It should be said that the circumstances of how the accident occurred are still disputed, Mr Titshall claiming that the door was faulty and shattered when he tried to open it and Qwerty claiming that the accident happened as a result of drunken row between Mr Titshall and his partner. Suffice to say that Mr Titshall’s claim was for compensation for the injuries he had suffered.
In their defence, Qwerty claimed (amongst other things) that they had no obligation to Mr Titshall because he had not booked a package holiday. Qwerty argued that they were no more than a retail agent arranging two separate contracts; the first with First Choice for the flights and the second with Hotels4U for 7 nights of accommodation. Qwerty had given Mr Titshall a break down of the cost over the telephone and argued that if Mr Titshall had asked to book just the flights or just the accommodation, he would have been told that he could.
In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal decided that the holiday was a package holiday and that Qwerty could in principle be liable to Mr Titshall for his injuries. The Court took into account the following factors:
- The advertisement was at an inclusive price;
- No suggestion was made to Mr Titshall that either the flights or accommodation were available for separate purchase; and
- There was a service charge which connected the provision of one service with the other.
Following the decision, it seems that the responsibility of ensuring that it is clear that a holiday booking is not being offered as a package holiday lies with the agent. A service charge will also be considered an indication that the agent is selling a package holiday.