The German Conference of Consumer Protection Ministers took place in Weimar, Germany, from 15 June 2022 to 17 June 2022. Agenda item No. 42 dealt with the possibility of automating air passenger complaints due to persistent deficiencies in the practical implementation of the EU Flight Compensation Regulation.(1) The item resulted in a resolution, which:
- reemphasised the statutory reimbursement period; and
- requested the government to lobby for a shorter period at the European level.
The resolution is to be welcomed in that airlines are to be encouraged to use technical automation of reimbursement claims at the pre-trial stage. However, the conference does not seem to have been aware of the existing solutions in this regard.(2) In fact, airlines already use automated solutions. Whether additional pressure must be created by the implementation of shorter payment periods is questionable, and could have the effect of flooding the courts with lawsuits.
The resolution also ignores that the right of choice under article 8 of the EU Flight Compensation Regulation must first be exercised before a refund can be made. A direct automatic refund after cancellation would restrict the passenger's right to choose between being rerouted or getting a refund. Further, such an automatic refund would not be feasible because the majority of passengers book via online travel agencies, which in turn engage ticket sellers. The decision therefore also ignores the economic realities – airlines often do not have the possibility to pay out directly or faster.
Another focus of the resolution is the automation of court proceedings – specifically, an accelerated online procedure is being considered. This topic has been under discussion for a long time, and the covid-19 pandemic further incentivised the working group on the Modernisation of Civil Procedure.(3) A discussion paper published by the working group two years ago contained resolutions on this topic.
The results of the steps that will now follow shall be presented and discussed in 2023, when the Conference of Ministers of Consumer Protection will meet again.
For further information on this topic please contact Sarah Joanna Haas or Ulrich Steppler at Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein by telephone (+49 403 177 9756) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein website can be accessed at www.asd-law.com.
(2) For example, "www.justclaims.eu", a fully automated legal tech solution for the processing and payment of compensation, refunds and assistance costs.
(3) A working group commissioned by the Presidents of the Higher Regional Courts, the Court of Appeal, the Bavarian Supreme Court and the Federal Supreme Court.