Thursday, 26 September 2013

Slow train - CJEU judgment in Case C-509/11 ÖBB-Personenverkehr

Today, the Court of Justice of the EU delivered its judgment in Case C-509/11 ÖBB-Personenverkehr AG. The case concerned the general terms and conditions used by the Austrian railways company, ÖBB, for transport contracts with railway passengers. These terms and conditions included provisions on compensation of the ticket price in case of delay. According to the national Rail Network Control Commission, ÖBB's terms and conditions were not in compliance with EU Regulation No 1371/2007 insofar as they excluded compensation in the following cases:

'–      where there is fault on the part of the passenger,
–      where a third party behaves in a manner which the carrier, in spite of having taken the care required in the particular circumstances of the case, could not avoid and the consequences of which he was unable to prevent,
–      in the event of circumstances not connected with the operation of the railway arising which the carrier, in spite of having taken the care required in the particular circumstances of the case, could not avoid and the consequences of which he was unable to prevent,
–      where services are restricted as a result of strikes, provided that passengers were adequately informed of these,
–      if the delay results from transport services not included in the transport contract.'

The CJEU was presented with the preliminary question whether, under EU law, a railway company may exclude its obligation to pay compensation for the ticket price in case of force majeure. In particular, the question was raised if carriers may rely on rules of international law which exempt them from liability in such cases.

In accordance with AG Jääskinen's opinion in the case, the Court holds that rail passengers are entitled to a partial refund of the price of their train ticket in the event of significant delay, even where that delay is attributable to force majeure. Rules of international law do not alter this, since these provisions are not applicable in the context of the liability regime established by the EU Regulation. Where the applicable rules of international law seek to reimburse passengers for damage or loss suffered as a result of the delay, the Regulation's purpose is to compensate passengers for the consideration provided for a service which was not supplied in accordance with the transport contract.

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