Thursday, 21 June 2012

You take the plane, and I'll take the train - on uniform passenger rights

Since I've been mostly travelling in the past month (the photo is one of the favourite ones I took in Mexico City), it's nice to find more EC news on consumer travel. While I mostly used air planes, there were also some buses and railways involved here and there. It would have been nice to know that as a passenger I had the same rights while using all these transport modes, or at least that if things went wrong I could expect similar assistance and complaint handling procedures. At this point, there is no uniform regulation of passenger rights for different transport modes in Europe. But this may change. 

This Tuesday there was a hearing organized in the European Parliament's Transport Committee with stakeholders from various travel organisations and consumer organisations in order to discuss strengthening of passenger rights. A survey prepared by Georges Bach was discussed (Draft report on passenger rights in all transport modes) in order to identify and find solutions to current EU travel issues. The survey mentions as such: unclear online pricing, lack of information while travelling, poor service for passengers with disabilities (see previous post), poor complaint procedures.

A good idea would be to draft one set of rules for enforcement of passenger rights - regardless the mode of transportation. This would give consumers clarity and legal certainty as to how to proceed when things go wrong during their trips. Unfortunately, this is seen as infeasible at the moment due to lack of experience with enforcement of rights for ship and bus passengers (these will only enter into force in 2013). Matthias Ruete, the Commission's Director General for transport, promises a revision of air passengers rights instead. This, however, was already on the table - so no news there.

"Monique Goyens of the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) advocated enforceable pricing rules to halt the proliferation of unfair contractual terms and surcharges for basic services that should be automatically included in the fare." (MEPs assess how to strengthen passenger rights in all transport modes)

Unclear pricing is a huge issue for consumers, so it doesn't surprise that it was singled out in these talks as well. Hopefully, after many resolutions on this in the Parliament and many voices raised to change the transparency of the pricing policy this will finally get a priority at a drafting table in the European Commission.

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