Consumer protection and liability
Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?
Section 30(4)(d) of the Civil Aviation Act requires every Nigerian and foreign carrier to file and keep open for public inspection, tariffs showing all rates, fares and charges imposed by the carrier. In addition, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority may approve or reject tariffs so filed if they are inconsistent with approved rates specified by the authority under the act and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations or rules and orders. However, there are no such rules or orders at present, as airfares are deregulated in practice.
An air carrier must obtain authority approval to introduce and increase add-on charges or surcharges. All tariffs must be filed at least seven days before the rates enter into effect.
What rules and liabilities are air carriers subject to in respect of:
(a) Flight delays and cancellations?
The rules and liabilities for air carriers for a flight delay and cancellation depend on whether it is a domestic or international flight. For flight delays, the duration and time of the delay determine the assistance to be provided by air carriers.
The necessary assistance for domestic flight delays includes:
- providing reasons for the delay within 30 minutes of the scheduled departure time;
- free refreshments (eg, water and soft drinks);
- two telephone calls, text messages and emails;
- immediate cash reimbursement of the full cost of the unutilised ticket at the purchase price.
Where the delay is between 10:00pm and 4:00am, or at a time when the airport is closed at the point of departure or arrival, hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and place of accommodation must be provided.
For delays of international flights, air carrier assistance should include:
- compensation of at least 30% of the passenger’s ticket price;
- two telephone calls, text messages or emails free of charge;
- hotel accommodation; and
- transport between the airport and place of accommodation.
In case of cancellation, all passengers must be offered assistance for domestic and international flights (eg, refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport and telephone calls). Such assistance is not mandatory where:
- in respect of domestic flights, passengers are informed of the cancellation at least 24 hours before the scheduled time of departure; and
- in respect of international flights, passengers are informed of the cancellation at least seven days before the scheduled time of departure or where they are informed less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure, such passengers are offered re-routing according to terms specified in the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations.
Passengers are also entitled to immediate cash reimbursement for cancelled domestic flights. For international flights, passengers are entitled to reimbursement within fourteen days at the purchase price for the part or parts of the journey not made or for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity.
When passengers are informed of the cancellation, an explanation must be given concerning possible alternative transport. An air carrier need not pay compensation for a cancellation if it can prove that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond its control.
(b) Oversold flights?
Where a flight is oversold, the airline must ensure that the smallest practicable number of persons holding confirmed seats reservations on that flight are denied boarding involuntarily and request volunteers for denied boarding before applying its boarding priority.
Volunteers must be compensated with at least 25% of the fare or ticket price for domestic flights and 30% of the ticket price for international flights. Volunteers are entitled to immediate cash reimbursement for domestic flights and reimbursement within fourteen days for international flights of the full cost of unused ticket at the purchase price for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity, or re-routing to their final destination.
In relation to each passenger solicited to volunteer for denied boarding, the air carrier must disclose all material restrictions and advise whether he or she is in danger of being involuntarily denied boarding and, if so, the compensation that the air carrier must pay if the passenger is involuntarily denied boarding.
If an insufficient number of volunteers come forward, the carrier may deny boarding to other passengers in accordance with its boarding priority procedures.
(c) Denied boarding?
If boarding is denied to passengers involuntarily, the air carrier must immediately compensate the affected passengers in the same way as the volunteers. Affected passengers are entitled to refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport and telephone calls.
(d) Access for disabled passengers?
Air carriers must give priority to persons with reduced mobility and anyone accompanying them, unaccompanied minors and families (maximum of two adults) where at least one child is aged five years or under.
(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?
Where a passenger’s baggage, whether carried on the same or a later flight, is lost or suffers any damage attributable to the air carrier, the passenger is entitled to compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to International Carriage by Air.
For compensation purposes, a passenger’s baggage is presumed to have been permanently and totally lost if, within seven days for domestic flights and 21 days for international flights (counted from when the passenger or consignee should have received the baggage), the baggage is not delivered to the passenger or consignee. Checked baggage fees will also be refunded if the baggage is not delivered to the passenger within 24 hours of the flight’s arrival.
(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?
There is no primary data protection legislation in Nigeria. However, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 guarantees the right to privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications. The Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency – which is responsible for planning, developing and promoting the use of information technology in Nigeria – has also issued draft guidelines on data protection.
What rules and liabilities apply to the air carriage of cargo?
The rules and liabilities applicable to an air carrier for the carriage, damage, delay, destruction and loss of cargo is contained in the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to International Carriage by Air.
Part 8 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations also provides that cargo may be carried in a passenger compartment only if it is stowed in an approved cargo bin that meets certain requirements contained in the regulations.
Marketing and advertising
Do any special rules apply to the marketing and advertising of aviation services?
Part 19 of the regulations provides rules for the marketing and advertising of aviation services. All air carriers, tour operators or their agents must ensure that the price stated for any air transport, package or package component is the entire price to be paid by the passenger to the air carrier, tour operator or agent. Failure by air carriers, tour operators or their agents to do this will be declared by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority as misleading and the air carrier will be liable to pay a civil penalty, as well as seizure of all inappropriate excess gains and profit from the advertisement or promotional scheme. Criminal referrals are also possible.
All air carriers must file all adverts and promotions with the authority. Further, an airline, tour operator or agent cannot charge or collect any additional fare (whether taxes, commission, brokerage fees or administrative charges) from passengers not expressly displayed and described in the marketing material or advertisement.
Do any special rules apply to consumer complaints handling in the aviation industry?
Part 19 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations provides special rules for complaints by passengers. A passenger may lodge a complaint with the consumer protection directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, or any other competent person designated by the authority, after the consumer has notified the air carrier of such a breach and the complaint remains unresolved. Air carriers must have a designated officer for the purpose of receiving and resolving passenger complaints.
On receipt of the complaint, the authority will conduct an investigation, further to which an assessment report will be prepared and recommendations made. The assessment report will be reviewed by the authority, which may:
- strike out the complaint;
- advise parties to use mediation;
- determine that the complaint should be made subject to the authority’s administrative hearing procedure; or
- take another action that it deems necessary.
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