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Consumer protection and liability

Airfares

Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?

Airlines are free to define their fares, under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and the Competition Authority (AGCM). Pursuant to EU Regulation 1008/2008, fares must be all inclusive and detail their components (eg, airfares, taxes and airport charges).

Regarding unfair commercial practices, Articles 20 to 23 of the Consumer Code (Legislative Decree 206/2005) apply. In case of infringement of the Consumer Code, airlines can undergo legal proceedings before the AGCM.

Passenger protection

What rules and liabilities are air carriers subject to in respect of:

(a) Flight delays and cancellations?

EU Regulation 161/2004 provides for three classes of delay, as follows:

  • Delay beyond the scheduled time of departure of two to four hours (ie, to be specified in consideration of the air route) – passengers have the right to be assisted in terms of:
    • food and beverages;
    • overnight accommodation;
    • transfers, if required; and
    • calls, messages and emails;
  • Delay beyond the scheduled time of departure of longer than five hours – passengers have the right to be assisted as above, plus the right to request ticket reimbursement and compensation of:
    • €250 for flights of 1,500 kilometres or less;
    • €400 for EU flights of longer than 1,500 kilometres or international flights of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres; and
    • €600 for international flights of more than 3,500 kilometres; and
  • Delay beyond scheduled time of arrival of longer than three hours – passengers have the right to be assisted and compensated as above.

Compensation is excluded if the delay occurs due to exceptional circumstances.

In case of flight cancellation, the passenger may choose between allocation on a different flight or ticket reimbursement. In any case, the passenger is entitled to assistance in terms of:

  • food and beverages;
  • overnight accommodation;
  • transfers, if required; and
  • calls, messages and emails.

Further, if the cancellation is not due to exceptional circumstances, the passenger has the right to obtain compensation as provided above.

(b) Oversold flights?

According to EU Regulation 161/2004, in case of oversold flights passengers may voluntarily renounce to board against the payment of an indemnity. If no passenger agrees to renounce boarding, the airline may deny boarding.

(c) Denied boarding?

According to EU Regulation 161/2004, passengers that are ‘rejected’ acquire the right to assistance and compensation. Further, passengers may choose between allocation on a different flight or ticket reimbursement.

(d) Access for disabled passengers?

EU Regulation 1107/2006 establishes the duties that airlines and airport managers must observe when dealing with disabled passengers. Denial is accepted only for safety reasons or if the dimension of the aircraft or its doors make boarding impossible. The airline must inform the disabled passenger of its security policy and it may require the disabled passenger to be assisted by a carer, if necessary. A disabled passenger is authorised to carry on board:

  • an ‘assistance dog’;
  • medical devices; and
  • up to two mobility devices.

(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?

According to EU Regulation 889/2002, in case of loss of checked-in luggage the passenger must fill out a property irregularity report (PIR) at the lost-and-found desk before leaving the baggage-claim area of the airport. If no luggage has been found 21 days after the claim, the passenger may claim compensation. If the luggage is found, the passenger may claim compensation for any unavoidable expenditures incurred in the meanwhile.

If any luggage is damaged, the passenger seeking compensation must still fill in a PIR, specifying the damage, and send all documentation to the airline’s customer services or luggage assistance office within seven days of arrival. Without prejudice to any insurance bought by the passenger, the compensation ceiling is set at:

  • 1,000 special drawing rights per passenger for airlines based in countries that are signatories of the Montreal Convention; and
  • 17 special drawing rights per kilo for airlines based in countries that are signatories of the Warsaw Convention.

(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?

Passenger data is protected under the Privacy Code (Legislative Decree 196/2003). Moreover, in April 2016 the European Parliament adopted the EU Passenger Name Record Directive (2016/681/EC), which governs the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crimes. Airlines must transfer PNR data collected in the course of their business to member states, with the possibility of their exchange among member states and Europol. PNR data must be deleted after five years.

Cargo

What rules and liabilities apply to the air carriage of cargo?

Special limits are provided for the carriage of dangerous goods. In this respect, for the purposes of the implementation of Annex 18 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Convention, ENAC issued a regulation concerning the transport of dangerous goods by air. The ICAO provides a list of dangerous goods, with a distinction between goods whose carriage is always forbidden and goods whose carriage may be authorised by the national competent authority (ie, ENAC), subject to emergency or other exceptional conditions. The liability for air carriage of cargo is governed by the Montreal Convention or the Warsaw Convention, as applicable.

Marketing and advertising

Do any special rules apply to the marketing and advertising of aviation services?

Misleading advertising relating to flights is covered by Law-Decree 7/2007, which obliges airlines to offer and advertise flights that clearly indicate:

  • the full price (including expenses, taxes and other additional charges);
  • the price of a return ticket; and
  • the terms of validity.

Messages that breach the above obligations can be penalised by the AGCM as unfair commercial practices pursuant to Article 27 of the Consumer Code, subject to a €5,000 to €500,000 fine.

Complaints handling

Do any special rules apply to consumer complaints handling in the aviation industry?

Passengers may file a complaint against the airline, attaching the flight ticket and the receipts of any expenditure incurred. If an answer is not given within six weeks, a complaint can be filed with ENAC. The results of ENAC’s investigation will be communicated to the complaining passenger, who may use them in legal proceedings. ENAC may also penalise the airline.

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