The Council of Ministers this week approved an amendment to the package travel rules that gives travel agents a lifeline. Thanks to the relaxation of the package travel regulations before the coronavirus crisis, travel agencies will be able to issue a voucher valid for one year to all customers who have had their trip cancelled as a result of the pandemic. If the customer does not consume the voucher within that time, the trip must be reimbursed.

The different associations that defend the interests of travel agencies have been satisfied with this measure, which puts an end to a situation of defenselessness in which they found themselves as a result of the unilateral implementation by the airlines of the voucher system that obliges the agencies to make refunds and places the travellers and the agencies “on a plane of true defenselessness to comply with the Combined Travel Law”.

A one-year bonus

The measure approved by the Council of Ministers means that, in the case of combined travel contracts that have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19, the organiser or, where appropriate, the retailer, may provide the consumer or user with a voucher to be used within one year of the end of the state of alert and its extensions, for an amount equal to the refund that would have been due.

Once the period of validity of the voucher has elapsed without it having been used, the consumer may request a full refund of any payment made. In any case, the eventual offer of a temporary replacement voucher must have a financial support that guarantees its execution.

However, the organizer, or where appropriate the retailer, must proceed to make the refund to consumers in the event that they request the termination of the contract, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 2 of Article 160 of the revised text of the General Law for the Protection of Consumers and Users and other complementary laws, provided that the service providers included in the package contract had proceeded to the full refund of the amount for their services.

If only some of the suppliers of services of the combined trip made the return to the organizer or, in its case, to the retailer, or the amount returned by each one of them was partial, the consumer will have right to the partial refund corresponding to the returns made, being discounted of the amount of the voucher given by the resolution of the contract.

The organizer or, where appropriate, the retailer, will proceed to make the refunds mentioned above within a period not exceeding 60 days from the date of termination of the contract or from the date on which the service providers have proceeded to their return.

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