The triggering of Article 50, setting out the intention of the UK to leave the European Union, has started a very complex and difficult time ahead, not just for the country but for general consumer activity.
In the febrile atmosphere of the opposing positions of leave or remain, we must not only focus on how we move forward and preserve 40 years of Consumer Law, but we must also take stock of what it actually means to the ordinary Travel Consumer's travel plans and their pockets!
In the first instance, we should remember that just because a letter has been delivered, does not mean that we have left the EU. On the contrary, that event only arises if and when an agreement is reached between the UK and the other 27 Member States. We know since the delivery of the now infamous Article 50 letter that agreement should be reached by 29 March 2019, or indeed a later date, after which we will continue to enjoy or may possibly lose all or some of the current Travel Consumer rights. Mindful of that, the government has introduced The Great Repeal Bill which aims to import all remaining EU Law into UK domestic law, and we are told, that this will mean that consumers will continue to enjoy the same rights following exit. I am not entirely convinced on that point and will leave the issue of continuing rights under UK Law for another separate article!
For the present, it is important for UK consumers to remember that until that stage is reached, we remain full members of the EU with all the rights and obligations attached to that membership. So the next step now is for consumers to consider what the immediate affect is upon their travel plans or their pockets; here are some key points for consumers to bear in mind and a strategy to deploy when booking their holiday:
Now that Article 50 has been triggered, some travel companies may try to prevent consumers from using their current rights. If you are faced with that situation, then they should robustly defend those rights by pointing out that the Article 50 letter has not cancelled their rights and that they should insist that they be given those rights in full, failing which they should report those companies to the various National Enforcement Bodies, such as the CAA where flight rights are denied!
We saw immediate affects following the vote last June through the fluctuations in currency; I think we are in a period where we will see much of the same. These fluctuations have had a direct affect on how much you can buy for your sterling - it is important more now than ever that consumers shop around for the best deals; do not leave buying euros or dollars until you get to the airport!
Another important aspect to consider is to ensure that you absolutely understand the charges your credit card issuer may pass on to you if you use your card abroad. Remember, if the currency markets are fluctuating, then so too will your credit card charges. Use your card judiciously and check with your card issuer, before you travel and whilst you are away; ensure that you are not paying more for that precious memory or gift!
Travel Companies often buy the travel product some 12-18 months in advance. Because of the potential disturbance created by the triggering of Article 50, consumers may find themselves faced with extra demands for money for their holiday. If you have bought a Package Holiday, Regulation 11 of The Package Travel Regulations sets out clearly the circumstances when surcharges can be made, but they cannot be requested from consumers if that increase is made less than 30 days before departure and amounts to less than 2% of the overall cost (there are possibilities that a travel company could vary this). It is vitally important that consumers understand this right and they should always check the law and the terms and conditions of their travel company to make sure that they are not breaching this important right so costing you more money.
As for destination concerns, other than security matters, there is nothing at this time to change how we enter any EU Member State - so no visas for UK Citizens are required. How we access healthcare in the EU - no changes to our access to health through the EHIC card scheme. Bringing your pet on holiday also brings no change - Pet Passports and vaccination obligations remain relatively the same (you should always check on those requirements in any event), or indeed how much goods we can bring into or out of the UK - for the present, these are points to bear in mind as we march towards the future and negotiations progress!
So those are the key points to remember during this immediate period. To help travel consumers think about the future of travel and what it will mean to their pockets, we have produced a 'brexit' guide, which will help you think about the potential key issues in Travel, after the UK has left the European Union!