HolidayTravelWatch Calls on EU & UK Politicians To Act To Protect Consumer Rights Under 261/2004
HolidayTravelWatch has noted the press release created by EUClaim BV, a Claims Management Company, based in Holland. Their press release highlights a range of cases being pursued on behalf of a number of Claimants, who were affected by the British Airways Industrial Action, in early 2007.
We note that this company is now engaged in a dispute with British Airways, on behalf of other Claimants, surrounding the issue of what consititutes an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and the purported confidentiality clause that British Airways is seeking to impose on such claims.
The EU Directive, 261/2004, was introduced to protect passengers from the issues of flight delay, denied boarding and cancellation. It contains a framework of consumer rights, which provides access to care and compensation in given circumstances.
Since the introduction of 261/2004, HolidayTravelWatch has received a continual stream of consumer complaints involving a denial of those rights by airlines.
In the UK Parliamentary session of 2006/2007, The House of Commons Transport Select Committee, ordered an enquiry into ‘Passengers’ Experiences of Air Travel’.
HolidayTravelWatch submitted its own comment to the Committee
(The report can be viewed at this link
The Transport Select Committee produced their report on such issues on 17 October 2007
(Their report can be viewed at this link http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmtran/1052/1052.pdf - ).
We were disappointed that so little space was given to the issue of 261/2004 (pages 15 & 16 of the Committee’s report), but noted the Committee’s comment that,
“We are disappointed that airlines are routinely using the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ clause as a means of avoiding paying compensation to passengers for cancelled flights. We are not, however, surprised given how poorly drafted the Regulation is. We hope that the challenge to the wording in the European Court of Justice will produce a precise interpretation that will mean that airlines can no longer blame nebulous external factors”.
The Government’s response to the Committee was to suggest that producing a Guidance was the way forward and reflection on the recent case before the European Court. They added,
“The UK would investigate any case of suspected sustained abuse of the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ clause although there is no evidence to suggest that abuse is common place”.
In our Article, ‘Watch Out for Further Announcements – Cancellation – The British Experience’ (9/2/07), we commented extensively on the issue of ‘extraordinary circumstances’
(This article can be viewed through this link –
http://www.holidaytravelwatch.com/Content/Files/Articles%20-%209.2.07/Watch%20out%20for%20Further%20Announcements%20-%20Cancellation.%20%20The%20British%20Experience%20-%209.2.07.pdf - )
Within that article, we specifically raised the point on whether the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ defence was valid, where an industrial dispute was the factor for the flight cancellation. We stated,
“The recent Industrial Action threatened against an airline again caused chaos, flights were cancelled and we therefore assume that the defence of extraordinary circumstances was deployed. Again we refer to the preamble in 14 & 15 above. However, we also noted from the BBC website, that 2 strikes had also been planned in February 2007. Thankfully they were avoided, however, it raises the question, if the strikes were ‘planned’, what advance notice did the airline have and what steps did they take to plan the re-scheduling of the passengers? Perhaps the answer to that question lies with the Trade Union? Passengers so affected by this dispute could write to the Union and establish what level of advance notice they gave the airline; it would then be a question as to what ‘reasonable measures’ the airline then took to avoid the cancellation, and whether they could avoid paying the appropriate compensation?”
Frank Brehany, MD of HolidayTravelWatch states,
“This latest news only serves to confirm our long held belief; that the defence of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ is in urgent need of legislative change. We take the view that ‘extraordinary circumstances’ was not designed to provide an escape clause for airlines, for whatever circumstance that may arise. The phrase ‘extraordinary circumstances’ implies that some unforseen circumstance has arisen, which could affect the operation of an aircraft; that would be the common sense and logical approach to such a phrase. Therefore we ask again, can the circumstances of an industrial dispute be said to be unforseen?”
He concludes, “The whole issue of consumer rights under 261/2004, and their implementation, raise serious questions that should occupy the minds of politicians. Time and time again we make the comment, that only the rise of a group action appears to concentrate minds and bring about progress. Given that there is so much concern about the so called ‘compensation culture’, will politicians remain standing on the sidelines whilst consumers continue to suffer detriment? We once again call upon EU and UK Politicians to take action to protect the travel consumer!”
Editors & Holidaymakers Notes:
All holidaymakers affected by any of these issues should call the National Helpline 01217478100 or make contact through the Organisation’s website – www.holidaytravelwatch.com
HolidayTravelWatch is a National Consumer Organisation which provides information, advice and assistance to the holidaymaker or independent traveller, who experiences problems with their travel arrangements. In eleven years 130,000 people have benefited from the help provided by HolidayTravelWatch, with over 43.5% being empowered to resolve their own claims by the information the organisation provides on their consumer rights.
HolidayTravelWatch has campaigned in the past for improvements in travel safety and is proud to have been associated with some of the leading broadcast and print media projects aimed at informing the consumer. HolidayTravelWatch continues with that campaigning spirit and continues to work closely with the media and government departments alike.
Full details of the work of HolidayTravelWatch can be found on www.holidaytravelwatch.com
For further information on this press release and any other associated matters please contact Frank Brehany on 01217478100
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