Schools and membership clubs often run short trips for their pupils or members without realising that they might fall within the Package Travel Regulations 2018 (PTR). Trainee Solicitor Nick Goodchild explores the PTR exception which can benefit such organisations.
The Package Travel Regulations are a piece of consumer protection legislation which came into effect in the UK on 1 July 2018. Broadly speaking, a ‘package’ will exist when two or more of the following services are combined:
- Car Hire
- Any other Tourist Service
A short school trip or sports club weekend away might easily fall within this definition, and as a ‘package organiser’ be subject to a number of onerous obligations (such as financial protection) and liability for the package. However, there are a small number of PTR exceptions which could apply if the criteria are met.
The ‘Occasional’ PTR Exception
Regulation 3(2)(b) says “These Regulations do not apply to packages offered, and linked travel arrangements facilitated, occasionally on a not-for-profit basis for a limited group of travellers;” [emphasis added].
Some guidance to the interpretation of a PTR exemption can be taken from the Package Travel Directive (PTD), from which the Regulations are taken. Recital 19 explains:
“(This) may for example include trips organised not more than a few times a year by charities, sports clubs or schools for their members, without being offered to the general public.”
There is no definition of the term ‘occasionally’ and its definition may be open to debate. In saying “not more than a few times a year” the Directive does not provide much more clarity. A common sense reading would suggest that this should be not more than 2 or 3.
‘Not-for-profit’ means not retaining any profits after all of the expenses of running the trip have been paid. It does not require the organiser to be a charity; simply that the trip should not be arranged with profit as a motive, and any surplus should not be distributed to owners or members. Guidance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS, now Department of Business and Trade (DBT)) in 2018 further suggests that this the trip should not be run ‘on a commercial basis’.
‘Limited Group of Travellers’
The PTD guidance suggests that this is meant for packages offered to a pre-defined group, such as an existing membership list or school pupils, and not to the general public.
All three of these criteria needs to be met for the exception to apply. Failing to meet any one of them will mean that the package organiser will be subject to all of the obligations of the PTRs.
The Directive goes on to say that ‘adequate information’ on the exclusion should be given to travellers so that they are ‘properly informed’ of their lack of protection under the regulation.
It is worth nothing that the exception would not apply to a commercial organisation running such a trip on behalf of the membership organisation. Companies specialising in sports or school trips or other specialist group travel would have to comply with the full requirements of the regulations. And of course the exemption will not apply where an organisation meets only 1 or 2 of the criteria.
There will always be circumstances where the facts are not clear cut, and with little official guidance or case law it can be difficult to say exactly where the line falls. We are always happy to advise on the whether the exclusion might apply, and how you can go about complying with your obligations in the right way.
This article was originally published on: 12 July 2023