Thursday, October 30, 2008

European Court of Justice: no Telephone Numbers necessary in e-Commerce

Article 5 of the E-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC provides that the service provider shall render easily, directly and permanently accessible to the recipients of the service and competent authorities his details, including his electronic mail address, which allow him to be contacted rapidly and communicated with in a direct and effective manner.

In a decision of Oct. 26, 2008 ECJ ruled that Art. 5 must be interpreted as meaning that a service provider is required to supply to recipients of the service, before the conclusion of a contract with them, in addition to its electronic mail address, other information which allows the service provider to be contacted rapidly and communicated with in a direct and effective manner. But that information does not necessarily have to be a telephone number. The information may also be in the form of an electronic enquiry template through which the recipients of the service can contact the service provider via the internet, to whom the service provider replies by electronic mail except in situations where a recipient of the service, who, after contacting the service provider electronically, finds himself without access to the electronic network, requests the latter to provide access to another, non-electronic, means of communication.

Given the increasing number of online bookings of travel and tourism services, this decision is of significant importance for the European stakeholders in tourism.

Find full text of the decision here>>.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Europe: Thousands of passengers stranded after financial crash of Sterling Airways

Icelandic-owned Sterling Airways has cancelled all flights, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at London Gatwick and thousands stranded across Europe. The airline which flies from Gatwick to Copenhagen, Stockholm and other Scandinavian cities, blamed the Icelandic financial crisis for its bankruptcy.

In the information issued to passengers, the airline told customers who have directly purchased their tickets on Sterling’s website that they will not be refunded neither will their return flights. They are advised to book their return flights with another airline company.

Source: eTurboNews; find article here>>.

European Union: new proposals for the application of VAT to travel

Though travel and tourism is the largest sector of the EU economy, Europe’s share of global tourism is declining. EU VAT rules make it more costly for EU-based, tour operators to promote Europe as a destination. Furthermore current VAT legislation it is not applied evenly across the EU.

At the annual conference of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), therefore new proposals will be presented to reform the application of VAT to travel. ETOA’s Global European Marketplace (GEM) is the most important gathering of the European inbound tourism industry. It takes place on Thursday, November 6 at the Copthorne Tara hotel in Kensington, immediately before World Travel Market in London.

Source: ForImmediateRelease.Net; find article here>>.

USA: Transportation Security Admistration likely to lift restrictions on liquids

Due to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airline passengers will likely be able to carry large bottles of liquids on airplanes some time next year. However, passengers would still have to remove liquids from carry-on bags at airport checkpoints and put them through X-ray machines separately.

By the end of 2010, passengers should be able to keep liquids as they go through checkpoints. Similar restrictions are also likely to be eased in airports of other countries.

Source: USA today; find article here>>.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

USA: Visa Waiver Program to be extended to seven more countries

U.S. President George W. Bush outlined the upcoming expansion of the Visa Waiver Program. By mid-November 2008, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea will be added to the program, which allows citizens of the approved countries to travel to the United States for stays up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa.

As part of the program, participating countries agree to share information on their citizens visiting the United States, and everyone must register online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization initiative and be approved before traveling.

Source: NTA; read full article here>>.

Monday, October 27, 2008

European Union: Parliament agrees on common charge system for EU airports

Common principles for levying charges at Community airports are set out in a second-reading report adopted by the European Parliament on a directive to prevent individual airports abusing a dominant position on the market.

The European Parliament also saw to it that any differentiation in airports' charges will have to be based on transparent and objective criteria. The Council Common Position, published on 23 June, also makes it clear that there should be a national independent supervisory body, rather than merely regional ones, which is also in line with Parliament's position.

According to the newest 2007 figures, 69 airports will come under the scope of the Directive (with more than 5 million passengers or being the biggest airport in a Member State). By the entry into force of the Directive in 2010, it is estimated by ACI, the Airport Council International, that 77 airports will be concerned.

Source: European Parliament press release; find full text here>>.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

USA: American Airline sues Yahoo over Keyword Advertising

On Oct. 17, American Airlines filed a law suit against Yahoo in U.S. District Court Fort Worth alleging trademark infringement related to Yahoo's paid Sponsor Results.

American Airlines seeks an order to temporarily and permanently bar Yahoo from selling the airline's trademarks, continuing to publish ads using keyword terms "identical or confusingly similar" to the airline's trademarks. It furthermore seeks restitution and punitive damages.

Source: Eric Goldman Technology & Marketing Law Blog;
Documents of the case to be found here>>.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Better protection for holiday-makers: Commissioner Kuneva welcomes Parliament's vote on Timeshare"

As stated by the EU Press Room, "Consumers across the EU will benefit from greater holiday protection - when they buy and resell timeshare holidays, or timeshare-like holidays on cruise boats, canal boats, caravans and 'discount holiday clubs' - under new rules endorsed by the European Parliament today. The aim of the new Directive is to further boost consumer confidence in the Timeshare industry (worth over €10.5 billion and responsible for more than 40,000 jobs across the EU) and to eliminate the rogue traders who cause problems for consumers and bring legitimate operators into disrepute. Up to now, EU rules on Timeshare have given consumers basic rights with regard to clear information, the right to withdraw and change their mind, and a ban on deposits. The new Directive which the European Parliament voted in favour of today, aims to tackle loopholes in the current rules. Most importantly, it will extend the scope of the 1994 EU Timeshare Directive to cover new products which have emerged on the market – like discount holiday clubs, and 'timeshare-like' holidays on cruise boats, canal boats and caravans. It will also extend protection to important areas like timeshare resale and exchange clubs. The new rules should ensure that consumers are equally well protected across the EU and will create a level playing field in the market for timeshare and certain other holiday-related products.
Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: 'I warmly welcome Parliament's support for this Directive, which will allow consumers real peace of mind when they sign up for their dream holiday deal. The new rules will ensure that the best possible protection is in place for consumers in the modern holiday market, and that rogue traders will no longer be able to exploit loopholes in the law'."

This release is available in full text.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Canada: passenger sues airline over hot drink

An Edmonton woman has launched an $85,000 lawsuit against Air Canada, alleging her vacation abroad was ruined when she was scalded as a result of an airline attendant spilling a hot beverage on her. She also alleges the Air Canada staff failed to treat her burn in accordance with reasonable first aid. She claims to have experienced mental distress that diminished her enjoyment of the vacation.

Source:; find article here>>.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

USA: New York area airports worst for late departures

A Travel Weekly analysis of airport departure times throughout the summer confirms that Airplanes taking off from New York-area airports (JFK, La Guardia, Newark) are more likely to leave late than planes departing other major regions, and that by a significant margin.
One trend common to all airports was a reasonably high on-time departure rate for early morning flights. The on-time rate then began to dip lower throughout the day, bottoming out in the late-afternoon rush hour. But deterioration in departure reliability at New York-area airports started sooner in the daily cycle, plunged deeper and lasted longer than other airports.
Due to the Port Authority, New York airports handled more than 104 million passengers last year. Since 75% of the US flight delays originate in the New York metropolitan area, the Port Authority concluded that their three airports accounted for a third of the nation's air travel delays.

Source: Travel Weekly; find full article here>>.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

German Supreme Court: no refund of the full package price following delayed connection flight

Plaintiff had booked a package tour to Iceland including a flight from Düsseldorf to Reykjavik via Amsterdam. Due to a technical problem the flight from Amsterdam to Reykjavik was delayed. After waiting six hours the plaintiff booked a return flight from Amsterdam to Düsseldorf on his own and returned home the same day. He argued he had legally terminated the contract and sued for repayment of the package price as well as compensation for the costs of his return flight, claiming that under Reg. 261/2004 a delay of more than five hours entitled him to cancellation and a free return flight .
The claim was dismissed in all instances. German Supreme Court (BGH) affirmed its view that Reg. 261/2004 is exclusively granting claims against the operating carrier and does not apply to the organizer of a package tour. Given the complex services under a package tour contract, a flight delay of more than five hours would not entitle the consumer to terminate the contract if the dealy had only resulted into missing one or two out of 14 days of the package tour.

Source: BGH press release 187/2008; full German text available here>>.

Germany: one more reference for preliminary ruling in regard to Reg. 261/2004

German Supreme Court (BGH) once again instituted proceedings on the interpretation of Reg. 261/2004 on air passenger rights. In the case concerend a flight from/to Berlin was part of a package tour to Turkey. During the trip the tour organizer changed the booking for the return flight and rerouted passengers to another flight of the same carrier, not going to Berlin but to Leipzig (from where a bus transfer to Berlin was provided). The originally booked flight to Berlin was duly operated by the carrier.
Passengers sued the operating carrier for compensation because of denied boarding under Reg. 261/2004. First instance court (Amtsgericht Rüsselsheim) granted the claim, court of appeal (LG Darmstadt) dismissed it. Upon further appeal of the passengers, BGH posed the following questions to the ECJ:
  • Can a rebooking to another flight be regarded "denied boarding" under Art. 4 par. 3 of the Reulation,
  • if answered yes, shall this also apply if the rebooking solely was based on a decision of a tour organizer, not one of the carrier.
Source: BGH press release 168/08; German text available here>>.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Proposal for a EC-Directive on Consumer Rights

Last week the European Commission presented a Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights COM (2008) 614/3 which shall merge 4 existing EU consumer directives into one set of rules.
For the first time it intends to move away from the minimum harmonisation approach in the former Directives (cf recital no 2).
According to Art 3 No 3, Art 30 to 39 concerning unfair contract terms, read in conjunction with Art 4 on full harmonisation, shall also apply to contracts which fall within the scope of the PTD 90/314/EEC.

The proposal can be found here:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

UNWTO: World Tourism Day 2008 Think Tank

The main conclusion of this year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) Think Tank held on the theme ”Tourism Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change” was that tourism growth must be pursued with increasing emphasis on ethics, local community involvement as well as reducing carbon emissions systematically.
A group of leading public and private tourism stakeholders, representatives of civil society and of the UN system highlighted the inter-relationship between climate response and global poverty reduction efforts. Simultaneous efforts on both fronts are key to effectively meet and promote sustainability goals by the tourism sector.

Participants of the Think Tank welcomed two new initiatives:
  • Built with support of Microsoft, this portal will be a global repository of good practice for all tourism stakeholders to replicate.
  • Tourpact.GC: The first sectoral initiative of UN’s Global compact. It links the Corporate Responsibility Principles and Processes of the Compact with UNWTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. The UN Secretary-General has welcomed it as an initiative to be followed by other sectors.
Source: UNWTO press release; read full text here>>.

International space Station awaiting tourist

The orbital path of the International Space Station (ISS) was successfully adjusted Saturday to accommodate the landing of the world's sixth space tourist in eight days time, Interfax reported citing Russian space programme officials.

Multi-millionaire US businessman Garriott is the son of US astronaut Owen Garriott. He paid more than 30 million dollars (20 million euros) to be launched into space from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to Space Adventures, the US-based company that organised his trip.

Source: eTurboNews; read full article here>>.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Florida: law on Cuba travel bond blocked by federal judge

A group of travel agents in Florida sued the state over a new law requiring agents who book trips to Cuba to post a USD 250,000 bond and disclose their clients' names. Earlier this month, a federal judge lifted the measure temporarily to consider the law's legality.
Before the measure was signed into law in June all travel agencies were required to pay the state a one-time USD 25,000 bond.
Despite the recent ruling, the legal battle between the travel agents and Florida lawmakers is not over: Some legal experts say the law oversteps the bounds of state authority.

Source: New York Times; find article here>>.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Antarctica: threatened by tourism?

Tourism in Antarctica has grown dramatically. In 1985, just a few thousand people visited the area but in the season 2007/2008 more than 40,000 did the same. Increasing tourism on Antarctica can result into a threat for the vulnerable South Pole area.

Antarctica is not a sovereign state and so legislation is difficult. With strict guidelines and codes of conduct, the umbrella organisation of Antarctic tour operators, IAATO, has been able to dispel many of the concerns. However, this self-regulation is no absolute guarantee for a healthy tourism industry on Antarctica.

Research from Maastricht University provides a possible solution: marketable visitor rights, as already used in the climate policy by means of trading in CO2 emission rights..

Source: Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "Tourism on Antarctica Threatening South Pole Environment; Solution Offered." ScienceDaily.