Tour operators who have to pay back money to their customers due to a corona-related package holiday can offer them a voucher as an alternative. The Bundestag has approved a corresponding bill of the federal government. Customers can choose to have the money paid back or the voucher.
According to the draft, package travelers should be able to get their money back if the holiday is canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. An originally planned voucher obligation, which should help to avoid bankruptcies in the travel industry, should not exist. It failed due to opposition from the Brussels EU Commission. However, consumers who booked their package tour before March 8 can voluntarily choose a voucher, the value of which is guaranteed by the state even if providers go bankrupt.
The German Travel Association (DRV) is critical of the vouchers, in particular they are not a solution to the liquidity problem in the travel industry. "That is the reality: vouchers are hardly accepted by customers - only 10 to 20 percent of consumers accept them," said DRV President Norbert Fiebig. "Vouchers only postpone the companies' liquidity problem until a later date," said the head of the Federation of German Consumer Centers, Klaus Müller.
Penalties for upskirting and gawkers at accident sites
At its meeting, the Bundestag also adopted a federal government bill to strengthen the protection of personal privacy when taking pictures. Anyone who photographs women under their skirts or spreads pictures of dead accident victims must face fines in the future. The new regulation aims at so-called upskirting and photos taken by gawkers at accident sites.
"Photographing a woman under her skirt or in her neckline is a shameless violation of her privacy, which will be punishable in the future," said Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD). Such border crossings are unacceptable.
To improve the protection of accident victims from Gaffer photos, the minister said that anyone who photographs seriously injured or even dead people out of "pure sensationalism" "violates all human decency". So far, such photography of the deceased was not punishable, this gap is now being closed.
Tobacco advertising ban is tightened
The Bundestag also tightened the ban on advertising for tobacco products. As of next year, the parliamentary decision will prohibit cinema advertising for smoking if the respective film is released for under-18-year-olds. The distribution of free samples is no longer permitted outside of specialist shops. From 2022 there will be a ban on advertising on outside surfaces such as billboards or stops - even if only for conventional tobacco products. For tobacco heaters, the ban on outdoor advertising will apply from 2023, and a year later outdoor advertising for e-cigarettes will also be prohibited.
The Bundestag also lays the financial foundation to lower the green electricity surcharge on electricity prices as planned. Parliament cleared the way for the subsidy lost for wind turbines and solar systems to be offset through budget funds. The MPs decided to amend the Renewable Energy Sources Regulation to legally allow subsidies from taxpayers' money. To ease the burden on citizens and businesses, the grand coalition had decided to reduce the so-called EEG surcharge, which everyone pays with the electricity bill, on January 1, 2021.
ECB meets requirements from Karlsruhe for bond purchases
The Bundestag also supported the controversial bond purchases by the European Central Bank with a large majority. After the critical decision of the constitutional court, the Bundestag is satisfied with the reaction of the ECB. With the votes of the CDU / CSU, SPD and the FDP and the Greens, a corresponding decision was taken with a clear majority, in which the parliamentary groups acknowledge the documents transmitted by the ECB. For them, the requirements in the judgment of the Karlsruhe judges are thus fulfilled.
In the ECB papers, the euro central bank explains its decision to buy bonds, which have long been controversial in the Bundestag, particularly in the Union. Since 2015, the transactions have been the central instrument of the ECB to boost the economy and to increase inflation. In May, however, the constitutional court surprisingly classified the purchase program PSPP partly unconstitutionally. It thus opposed the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which had previously classified it as right-wing. The Karlsruhe judges demanded that the Governing Council should demonstrate proportionality, otherwise the Bundesbank would be prohibited from continuing to participate in the purchases after a transition period of three months.