News item

UK ECC publishes travel advice

Picture of UKECC logoBeen charged for a car parcel shelf that didn’t exist?
UK ECC publishes travel advice booklet for consumers up the creek without a paddle

Complaints about transport services in the first six months of 2012 accounted for more than 15% all complaints to the UK European Consumer Centre. This included everything from being charged for a car parcel shelf that never existed in the first place to problems getting hold of an airline ticket refund made by an airline to a third party booking agent. 

UK consumers are in dispute over transport services with EU traders from a variety of countries, but some of the countries most frequently complained about include Spain, France, Ireland and Germany.

Sonia Payne, UK European Consumer Centre Legal Advisor, said: “The number of complaints and enquiries from UK consumers about transport services always accounts for a sizeable portion of our overall complaints – that’s currently running at just over 15%. Every year UK consumers find themselves in dispute with EU companies over a range of problems connected with rail and air travel, car hire and boat travel.

“There are always the same old chestnuts in terms of complaints, but some rather more obscure complaints also crop up from time to time. Consumers are often at their most vulnerable when they are short of money and are on the hunt for a bargain. Quite naturally, they may also have their guard down and be more trusting when they are making their travel plans as they are often already ‘in the holiday mood.’ If the purchase is made whilst the consumer is already on holiday they may be out of their usual comfort zone.

“We have now produced a travel booklet covering these four modes of travel - rail, air, car hire and boats - to ensure consumers are aware of their rights and to help empower them to avoid problems.

“Our aim is to help as many UK consumers as possible who encounter problems with a trader based in Europe, to achieve a resolution: a refund, replacement, repair or cancellation of their contract. But we also want to do everything we can to try to ensure that UK consumers know what their rights are when travelling elsewhere in the EU.”

Here is a snapshot of some of the European legislation covered in the UK ECC booklet ‘Trains, planes, cars and boats’:

Trains
• European legislation came into force in December 2009 (EC regulation 1371/2007) to offer better protection to rail passengers. It is intended to result in more reliable and high-quality rail passenger services. Rail passenger rights apply to international rail transport services in the EU, although there are some countries that have yet to implement this. The rights may also apply to domestic train services, depending on decisions made by national governments. http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passenger-rights/en/index.html

Planes

You have EU air passenger rights if your flight departs from an EU country* OR arrives in an EU country* with a carrier licensed in the EU*
*or Iceland, Norway, Switzerland.

• If your flight delay is more than two hours, under EC regulation 261/2004 you can claim for meals and refreshments (sometimes you may receive vouchers from the airline) or even overnight accommodation, depending on the length of delay to your destination. To check your exact entitlement, view the UK ECC’s website on www.ukecc.net

• If your luggage is lost, damaged or delayed, the Montreal Convention says you should be able to claim up to a certain amount for checked-in luggage (about £1,000), although the airline may not be liable if it can prove that it has taken all necessary measures and the problem was unavoidable.

Cars

One of the most important things is to check the terms and conditions for relevant extra charges, which may include: returning the car to a different place, child seat, second driver, airport charge, crossing a border into another country, fuel costs, road offences and travel limits.

• Consumers are advised when buying goods costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 to use a credit card, as section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may place equal liability with the seller on the credit card company.

• A ‘contract’ may be breached if the car hire company does not do what its terms and conditions say.

Boats

• New rights are due to come into force for passengers travelling by sea and inland waterways on                18 December 2012 when EC regulation 1177/2010 comes into effect. These rights for passengers travelling by water are intended to complement existing rights for air and rail passengers. The regulation comes from the European Commission but implementation could vary throughout the EU.

• The regulation does not apply to passengers in certain situations such as travelling on ships certified to carry up to 12 passengers or where the overall service is less than 500 metres one-way or on excursion and sightseeing tours.

CASE STUDY:

Mr C, a UK consumer, pre-booked a hire car and picked it up in Spain. He discovered that a charge of 256 EURO had been applied to his credit card after he’d returned the hire car. The hire firm stated that as the parcel shelf was missing the consumer had been charged for a replacement. But the consumer said that there was no parcel shelf in the car when he collected it and the vehicle manufacturer confirmed that a parcel shelf is not provided in the car as standard, but is an optional extra purchased independently. The trader denied that the parcel shelf was not there, but the
pre-rental document did not feature the interior of the car and there was no inventory of the vehicle contents. The trader does not do post-rental inspections and no member of staff was available when the consumer returned the car. The consumer attempted to get redress but was unsuccessful. He approached the UK ECC for help, who shared the case with ECC Spain and a refund of 256 EURO was obtained.

CASE STUDY:

Mr W, a UK consumer, made an online booking with a Dutch travel ticket firm, buying two airline tickets from Cairns to Sydney. Before reaching Cairns a cyclone struck Australia and Cairns airport was closed. The airline refunded the cost of the tickets - 350 EURO – to the ticket purchasing agent, but this was not passed onto the consumer. Mr W was initially told that it would take months for the money to be returned to him, but subsequently was constantly fobbed off or ignored by the booking agent. UK ECC consumer advisors shared the case with their counterparts in ECC Netherlands and a refund of 350 EURO was secured.


ENDS
Notes to Editors

For further information please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 08456 08 96 06.

• UK European Consumer Centre consumer complaint line – 08456 04 05 03

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres covering Europe, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.

UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.

UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission.

The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute (www.tsi.org.uk)

• * These figures were taken from Visit Britain’s Visitor Economy Facts (updated April 2012)

Media queries should sent to ecc@tsi.org.uk or by phone on 08456 08 96 06.

• The UK ECC provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK and will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.

• Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.

• If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for                    pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net