Sale and organisation of travel- and tourism-related services and holiday packages

All travel agents must:

  • include the mandatory particulars when drawing up a sales contract;
  • inform their clients in a clear and precise manner of all aspects of their journey before they sign the contract;
  • inform their clients of their right to transfer or, in some cases, to cancel the sales contract;
  • provide their clients with essential information before their departure (departure and arrival times, itinerary, local contacts, insurance and assistance in the event of problems, etc.);
  • make every effort to help travellers in difficulty after their departure.

Who is concerned

The Consumer Code specifically protects travellers (purchasers) who have signed a contract with a travel agent for travel, holidays or holiday packages.

The contract may be for:

  • services provided during trips or stays abroad, such as:
    • the issuance of transport documents;
    • the booking of rooms in hotels or tourist accommodation establishments;
    • the issuance of accommodation or meal vouchers;
  • tourism-related services, especially customer reception and the organisation of tours, conferences and other similar events.

The services covered by these contracts do not include those provided by:

  • associations, groups and bodies recognised as being of public interest which, within the framework of their activities, organise and manage transport from/to:
    • holiday resorts or recreational centres;
    • summer camps for youths under 18;
    • holiday villages or family homes;
  • natural and legal persons offering tourism-related services, especially customer reception and the organisation of tours, conferences and other similar events which they provide themselves.

Example: tourist reception and tours of vineyards, wine cellars, etc.;

  • natural and legal persons who operate a hotel or tourist accommodation establishment and receive room bookings for their establishment;
  • natural or legal persons who provide transport for travellers—but not as part of a package stay or tour—including transfers;
  • natural or legal persons authorised to rent out vehicles.

In principle, non-profit associations (association sans but lucratif - asbl) that occasionally organise trips for the exclusive benefit of their members are not required to use the services of travel agencies as long as they do not enter into competition with them. However, if these associations receive any form of payment and the trips are organised on a regular basis, it is recommended to use a travel agency.

Preliminary steps

With the exception of those individuals who are explicitly excluded by the regulations, all concerned persons must first set themselves up as a travel agent.

How to proceed

Mandatory information

General remarks

Travel agents have a triple obligation in terms of the information they are required to provide their clients with. The law requires them to provide:

  • certain information prior to concluding the contract;
  • mandatory particulars in the contract;
  • certain information prior to the traveller's departure.

If a travel agent does not fulfil these obligations, the customer is entitled to request the cancellation of the contract.

Mandatory information in the brochure

The information provided in brochures prior to concluding a contract binds the travel agents, i.e. they must comply with the information contained in the documentation provided.

In their brochure(s), travel agents must specify:

  • the name and address of the person authorised to operate as a travel agent;
  • the details of their authorisation to operate as a travel agent;
  • the name and address of their guarantor;
  • the name and address of their insurer.
Any change in the information contained in the brochure(s) must be brought to the customer's attention in writing before concluding the contract. If this is not done, the travel agent remains bound by the initial information stated in the brochure.

Information prior to signing the contract

Before signing a contract, the travel agent must provide the customer with the following, in writing or in any other format offering the same guarantees:

  • the price and terms of payment of the trip;
  • the details of the services being provided, i.e.:
    • the destination;
    • the means, characteristics and categories of transport used;
    • the itinerary for the trip;
    • the type of accommodation, the main characteristics of the place of accommodation, its location and its quality rating with regard to the regulations in force in the country in question (usually in terms of a number of stars);
    • the number of meals included;
  • if the trip requires a minimum number of participants, the deadline for informing the client if the trip is cancelled due to an insufficient number of participants;

This deadline cannot be any shorter than 21 days prior to the departure.

  • the terms and conditions governing the cancellation of the contract by the customer, i.e.:
    • the cancellation deadlines;
    • the cost to be borne by the customer in the event of cancellation;
  • the conditions governing the crossing of borders, i.e.:
    • all information concerning passports and visas;
    • the health formalities required for the trip and stay;
  • a statement that the agent reserves the right to modify the information provided.

The law allows travel agents to indicate in writing that they reserve the right to modify any information communicated to the customer beforehand. If this statement is not provided, all information communicated to the customer beforehand is binding upon the travel agent, who may no longer modify the information. Only the customer may request changes to the services offered, and such changes must specified in the contract.

On any document given to the customer containing the information mentioned above, the travel agent must also indicate:

  • the name and address of the person authorised to operate as a travel agent;
  • the details of their authorisation to operate as a travel agent;
  • the name and address of their guarantor;
  • the name and address of their insurer.
The client may claim that the contract is null and void if it was concluded in violation of the pre-contractual obligations.

Mandatory information before departure

Travel agents are required to provide travellers, in writing and before their departure, with all information concerning :
  • transport, i.e.:
    • departure and arrival times;
    • stop-overs and travel connections;
    • in the event of travel by boat or train, the traveller's assigned seat, if a booking was made;
  • all contact persons, i.e.:
    • the name, address and telephone number of the tour operator's local representative, of the sales agent or local bodies that could assist the traveller in case of problems;
    • for underage children travelling abroad, the information required to establish direct contact with the child or with the person in charge on site;
  • insurance and assistance arrangements, i.e.:
    • information on the optional insurance policy covering cancellation costs;
    • information on the optional assistance contract covering repatriation costs in the event of an accident or illness.

Contractual terms

Mandatory particulars in the contract

The terms of the contract must have been communicated to the customer, in writing, before the conclusion of the contract. It is important that customers be given the opportunity to acquaint themselves thoroughly with all the elements of the contract before signing.

If this is not the case, the contract is null and void.

All contracts between a travel agent and their customers relating to holiday or travel packages must include:

  • the names and adresses of:
    • the tour operator;
    • the seller;
    • the guarantor;
    • the insurer;
  • the details of the provided services, i.e.:
    • the travel destination or destinations;
    • in the case of several distinct periods of stay, the different periods of stay and their dates;
    • the travel itinerary;
    • the means, characteristics and categories of transport used to reach the destination (departure and arrival times, stop-overs and connections, and in the event of travel by boat or train, the traveller's assigned sea, if a booking was made);
    • the type of accommodation, the main characteristics of the place of accommodation, its location and quality rating with regard to the regulations in force in the country in question (usually in terms of a number of stars);
    • the number of meals included;
    • the final dates, times and places of departure and return which must have been determined at the latest when the travel documents were handed over to the client;
    • all visits, excursions or other services included in the total price of the package;
    • if the package requires a minimum number of individuals, the deadline for informing the customer if the trip is cancelled due to an insufficient number of participants.

This deadline cannot be any shorter than 21 days prior to the departure.

  • the price and terms of payment, i.e.:
    • the price of the package;
    • any fees or taxes associated with certain services (landing, embarkation or disembarkation fees at ports or airports, visitor's taxes), whenever they are not included in the package;
    • the terms of payment;
    • the payment schedule;
    • the rights and obligations of each party with regard to price adjustments;
    • the amount or percentage of the price to be paid as a down payment, and the payment schedule for the balance (the last instalment may not be less than 30 % of the total price and must be paid when the travel documents are given to the customer);
    • any special requirements that the customer may have informed the travel agent of at the time of the booking, and which both parties agreed to;
  • the mutual rights and obligations of the parties, i.e.:
    • the cancellation terms;
    • the terms and conditions governing the transfer of the contract;
    • the deadlines by which any claims must be filed for non-performance or poor performance of the contract;
    • a possible optional clause regarding the limitation of the travel agent's liability in respect of moral (non-material) damages following the non-performance of one or more contractual obligations;
  • the conditions for the handing over of the documents;
    • signing by the travel agent and the customer;
    • the guarantee certificate, which is intended to inform the customer of the insurance taken out by the travel agent to cover 1) the risk of bankruptcy or insolvency, 2) the reimbursement of funds received by the travel agent for contract-related services, and 3) repatriation expenses. The certificate to be given to the client must contain:
      • the contents of the guarantee;
      • the name and address of the guarantor;
      • any information the customer may need to contact the guarantor at any time if repatriation is required.

The terms of the contract must also reflect the information given to the customer beforehand. The contract may deviate from this information:

  • on the initiative of the customer, if they have requested a change in the proposed or displayed services, and if the travel agent has agreed to the change;
  • with regard to the information contained in the brochures:
    • if the travel agent has reserved the right to modify the information published in the brochure;
    • if the travel agent has informed the client in writing of the modifications in a timely manner, and before the conclusion of the contract;
    • for all other information provided beforehand:
      • if the travel agent has reserved the right to do so.

Price

The prices specified the contract may be adjusted only if:

  • the adjustments in question concern:
    • the transport costs (especially with regard to fuel costs);
    • fees and taxes associated with the proposed services (embarkation and disembarkation fees at ports or airports);
    • exchange rates that apply to the trip;
    • the contract provides for possible adjustments, both upward and downward;
    • the contract specifies the method for calculating the new price.
If none of the latter are stipulated in the contract, the prices may not be adjusted.

In the twenty days preceding the planned departure, only downward adjustments are permitted, if this possibility has been provided for in the contract.

In the case of an upward adjustment of the price of the contract, the customer is entitled to exercise their right of withdrawal, even if possible price adjustments and the terms and conditions thereof are provided for in the contract. If the travel agent increases any prices, they must inform their customers thereof, and also remind them of their right of withdrawal. Once the price increase has been announced, the customer may terminate the contract within 7 days. When no particular information is provided, the 7-day interval starts when the latest invoice for the provided services is received. Customers who terminate their contract are entitled to a full refund of the amounts paid, without the application of fees or penalties, within 10 days of the termination. The price of the trip specified in the contract may not be increased in the 20 days preceding the departure.

Transfer of the contract

A customer may, if they wish, transfer their contract to another person who satisfies all of the conditions required for the trip or stay, provided the travel agent is informed beforehand. The transferor—the customer who transfers their contract—must inform the travel agent of their decision within a reasonable interval of time before the departure.

The transferor and the transferee—the individual to whom the contract is being transferred—are jointly liable to the travel agent for the payment of the trip or stay, and for any other cost incurred as a result of the transfer. This means that the travel agent may, at their convenience, turn to either the transferor or the transferee to claim the payment of any amounts due.

The terms and conditions governing the transfer must be specified in writing in the sales contract.

Non-observance of contractual provisions before departure

Unforeseeable external events

Only the travel agent may invoke an unforeseeable external event. In this case, the Consumer Code very precisely regulates the options that the travel agent must offer the consumer. In the case of a force majeure event preventing the customer from starting the trip, the parties simply need to refer to the provisions in the contract which define the customer's rights in such cases. Otherwise, the Consumer Code does not provide for a solution in the event of a dispute between the parties.

If before the departure, the travel agent is forced to breach one of the fundamental elements of the contract following an unforeseeable external event, they must:

  • inform the customer thereof within 3 days of the event;
  • inform the customer of their right to terminate the contract within 7 days of receiving the information, unless the customer accepts the change to the contract.
If the customer terminates the contract, they are entitled to a full refund of the amounts paid, without the application fees or penalties, within 10 days of the termination.

If the customer does not wish to terminate the contract, they may chose another arrangement of equivalent or higher quality, proposed by the travel agent as a replacement without a mark-up in price. If the proposed arrangement is of lower quality, the customer is entitled to a refund of the difference in price.

The customer may also terminate the contract in the event of an upward adjustment of the contract price.

Termination of the contract by the travel agent

If the travel agent terminates the contract before the departure, through no fault of the customer, they must reimburse the full amount paid by the latter within 10 days of the date of termination.

Moreover, the client can claim compensatory damages unless the termination is due to:

  • the fact that the number of clients registered for the stay is below the minimum required and that the travel agent has informed the client in writing within the time interval specified in the description of the holiday package;
  • a force majeure event, namely external, abnormal and unforeseeable circumstances the consequences of which could not have been prevented.

Non-observance of contractual provisions after departure

If the travel agent is unable to observe one of the provisions of the contract after the departure, they must offer the customer an equivalent set of services of at least the same quality as a replacement for those which were not provided, unless they are unable to do so for duly justified reasons.

The travel agent must:

  • either pay for the additional costs incurred as a result of the change to the services;
  • or refund the customer the price difference between the proposed services and the services actually provided. 

If the travel agent is unable to offer the customer a replacement service or if, for valid reasons, the customer refuses the proposed change, the travel agent must provide the customer with the transport documents that are required for their return. Moreover, the client is entitled to claim compensatory damages.

Liability of the travel agent

Travel agents are fully liable to their customers for the proper performance of the contractual obligations, whether these obligations are performed by the travel agent themselves or by other service providers.

However, the travel agent is not liable if they prove that the non-performance of the contract is attributable to:

  • the purchaser;
  • or a third party not involved in the provision of the services specified in the contract;
  • or a force majeure event.

Nevertheless, except in the case of infringements that are attributable to the customer, the travel agent is required to make every effort to assist their customer(s) in difficulty.

In case of non-performance of the obligations provided for in the contract, the customer may claim compensation for the harm suffered, provided that compensatory damages have not been limited by the contract.

If the non-performance involves a service falling under international law, appeals for compensation for harm suffered will depend on the provisions in international law, which prevails over national law.

Disputes

Who to contact?

In the event of a dispute, consumers can obtain information and assistance from:

  • the Luxembourg Consumer Association (Union luxembourgeoise des Consommateurs - ULC), if the dispute is between a consumer and a tourist service provider (travel agency, airline, hotel, etc.) in Luxembourg;
  • the European Consumer Centre (ECC Luxembourg), in the case of a cross-border consumer dispute, i.e., a dispute between a consumer and a tourist service provider located in another country of the European Union.

Filing a claim

Customers who wish to receive a refund or even compensatory damages from the travel agent must:

  • inform the tour operator's representative at the holiday location and have them draw up an "irregularity report" stating all the points at issue;
  • document their claim as accurately as possible, with pictures and/or testimonies in support of the claim;
  • on returning home, inform the travel agent by registered mail of the problems encountered during the holiday.

Note that claims must be based on objective criteria and not on personal opinions. For example, the customer may legitimately request a refund if the services are of a lower standard than those provided for in the contract.

The customer can also refer the case to the Luxembourg Commission for Travel Disputes (Commission luxembourgeoise des litiges de voyage - CLLV), which is the mediating body responsible for settling traveller complaints. 

The CLLV's mission is to seek to reconcile the parties. If reconciliation fails, the CLLV issues a legally grounded opinion based on the principle of equity. However, the opinion is not legally binding, meaning that it imposes no obligation on the parties, but the opinion's moral authority may be enough to settle the dispute. In the case of an objection, the parties can take the case to court and the opinion may be used as proof.

Who to contact

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