ECJ ruling on flight delays: Consumer champion warns against third-party claim firms

European Court of Justice rules on airline delay compensation

For details on how to claim What to do when your flight is delayed

Decision in favour of passengers follows last year’s similar ruling by the Supreme Court

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) this morning ruled that airline passengers can claim compensation for delays caused by technical faults. You could be forgiven for thinking that this rule has already been passed last year. It was in fact the Supreme Court in the UK.

In October 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that consumers had 6 years to claim compensation for delays and upheld the ruling regarding that technical difficulties are not “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of a compensation claim [1]. The Dutch airline KLM had tried to argue that spontaneous technical issues are “extraordinary circumstances” and many cases have been on hold whilst the case was appealed at the ECJ.

The ruling demonstrates how poor the regulation is: so many claim cases around the EU have had to go to court, to the Supreme Court in the UK and now the European Court of Justice. Well-written regulation should shape the minimum standards and compensation rules but they have not been clear enough which has led to confusion and legal cases. Reform of the regulation is underway in Brussels, but progress has stalled due to disagreements between member states.

An increase in the already large number of compensation claims is now inevitable.

Helen Dewdney consumer campaigner and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! whilst welcoming another win for consumers says that, in her opinion, compensation should not be a set amount for each claim, it should be a percentage of the ticket price. She says:

“In some cases the compensation will be higher than the price of the ticket which is ridiculous and will result in only one thing, an increase in prices.” She also warns of the increase in number of no-win no-fee organisations claiming on behalf of people who have been delayed. “There is nothing that an organisation or lawyer can do regarding delayed or denied boarding that a consumer cannot do themselves and get 100% of the compensation figure (which varies on length of flight and delay).” (For details on what you need to know to claim compensation see here.)

Notes to editors:
[1] The decisions made in the Huzar v Jet2 and Dawson v Thomson cases confirmed that routine technical difficulties are not extraordinary circumstances. Ron Huzar was delayed for 27 hours on a Malaga to Manchester flight. The delay had been caused by faulty wiring and Jet2 had claimed that this was unforeseen and categorised as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. In the Dawson v Thomson case, James Dawson was claiming for an eight-hour delay on a flight to the Dominican Republic in 2006; his claim was made in 2012. The airline refused to pay, citing the Montreal Convention, which limits claims to two years after an incident. On October 31st 2014 the Supreme Court upheld the rulings at appeal. Delays caused by technical problems cannot be categorised as ‘extraordinary’ circumstances and not liable for compensation and consumers have up to six years after the flight to make qualifying compensation claims. A judge in Liverpool county court threw out applications on the 25th February 2015 by Jet2, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air to keep claims on hold until a case in Holland about technical delays (Van dear Kans v KLM) was decided. He stated that cases should be settled in line with existing passenger-rights rules.

BBC Breakfast 5th August 2015 flight delays

The Complaining Cow releases new edition of bestselling consumer rights guide

Third edition of the popular book – Now updated for Consumer Rights Act 2015

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer campaigner and blogger at www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk has rewritten her Amazon bestseller “How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!” to reflect the latest changes in consumer law.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 comes into force on the 1st October 2015. It consolidates a number of laws including the most commonly known Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. The new law also takes into account distance selling and digital goods.

Dewdney hopes that the new edition of the book will help people assert their increased legal rights and not be fobbed off. Consumers are now protected buying downloads for example. With a section on typical fob offs and how to deal with them, as well as covering the many consumer Acts of law, advice, real life examples of complaints and templates, the guide to complaining effectively has been well received.

Paul Lewis, financial journalist, says

“Buy this book. And next time a shop or bank or holiday firm fails you, take it off the shelf, find out what to do, and complain. Always write (“I don’t do phone calls”), quote the law they’ve broken (each section begins with a thorough guide), state clearly what you want (everything plus compensation), and end the letter with your next step if you don’t get it (right up to court action). How to Complain is by turns homely and thorough. Helen Dewdney has complained about every kind of poor service and, from what she says, always wins. She knows precisely what her rights are and how to get them. How to complain is in itself a model. The title is accurate. And it delivers what it promises. It should strike fear into any firm that doesn’t.”