§ Mr. David Young
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation to safeguard all consumers who find hotels abroad overbooked and to provide that travel agents operating in the United Kingdom are bound to ensure that accommodation is provided as booked or payment is returned.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Overbooking of holiday accommodation is, in most cases, the fault of the hotelier at the holiday resort, over whom we have no jurisdiction. Therefore, legislation of the sort envisaged would not be effective in dealing with the problem. I think that in so competitive a field as the holiday industry, voluntary arrangements such as those in the Association of British Travel Agents code of practice achieve better results.
The ABTA code, which was drawn up in consultation with the Director General of Fair Trading, places upon tour operators the responsibility to take all reasonable precautions against overbooking. If it occurs before departure, the operator must inform his clients immediately and offer the choice of alternative and comparable accommodation or a full refund. If overbooking becomes apparant after the clients departure from the United Kingdom, he must offer alternative accommodation with the addition of compensation if the accommodation is inferior to that originally booked.
In addition to the code of practice, tour operators are bound, like other traders offering services, by the provisions of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.