CMA indecision shows need for legal precedent on flight refunds
Today (7 October 2021) the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) announced that it was dropping its investigation into the refund policies of British Airways and Ryanair.
The CMA cited lack of clarity in law, stating that it could not be “sufficiently certain that it would be able to secure refunds for customers of British Airways”. The investigation, which was launched in June 2021, looked into the two airlines which were not refunding the cost of flights that went ahead when was not legal for people to travel.
BA offered vouchers and Ryanair offered rebooking on a later flight.
Law not clear
When a flight is cancelled the law is clear, a full refund must be given. However, the law does not cover the situation where a flight goes ahead but the law prevents people from going on it. The CMA believes that consumers should be refunded but “…concluded that prolonging this investigation could not be justified given the length of time it would take to reach an outcome in the courts and the uncertain outcome.
In the past, where airlines have tried to get out of paying refunds and test cases have been brought a precedent has been set. And that precedent has been set in favour of consumers. This could be from either a consumer organisation or a class action.” A class action is where a group of people come together and are represented as a group against a company in court.
For example, in the 2012 case of Huzar v Jet2 and Dawson v Thomson it was confirmed that “routine technical difficulties” for an airline are not “extraordinary circumstances” under the terms of the EC261 regulations. The Supreme Court upheld the decision in 2014.
And in 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled in the class action case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH, stating that a strike by an airline company’s employees are not “extraordinary circumstances”.
I hope that that an enterprising law firm will pick up the case on behalf of an individual or group affected by Ryanair and BA’s refusal to refund customers and bring these airlines to justice.
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