Commission Opens Traveler’s and Passenger’s Rights Infringement Proceedings Against Several Member States

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In the European Commission’s July Infringements Package, the Commission announced that they have opened passenger rights infringement cases against Schengen Member States Greece and Italy.

“Today the European Commission launched infringement proceedings by sending letters of formal notice to Greece and Italy for being in violation of EU rules protecting rights of passengers,” the Infringement Package reads.

The Commission states that during the COVID-19 crisis, many flight routes, bus routes, and sea routes had been shut down. The Commission had previously stated to Member States that even during the unprecedented times of COVID-19, the regular rules regarding passenger’s rights will stay the same.

Under EU rules, Member States have to grant passengers of transportation services certain rights. One of these rights is that passengers should receive the option of either a cash refund or a travel voucher, should their trip get cancel due to external factors that they could not control, such as a pandemic or a natural disaster.

Italy and Greece had allegedly only been offering travel vouchers to travelers whose trips had been canceled and had left no option whatsoever for a cash refund.

“Throughout this crisis, the Commission has consistently made clear that passenger rights remain valid in the current unprecedented context and national measures to support the industry must not lower them. While the European Commission is also assessing the situation in other Member States by requesting further information on the application of the rules, Greece and Italy have adopted legislation allowing carriers to offer vouchers as the only form of reimbursement. Under the EU passenger rights Regulations, however, passengers have the right to choose between reimbursement in money and other forms of refund, such as a voucher,” the Infringement Package reads.

Greece and Italy will have two months to respond to the Commission’s statements.

At the same time, the Commission has opened infringement proceedings against Czechia, Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia for violating consumer’s and traveler’s rights.

The above-mentioned Member States allegedly did not allow for the option of a cash refund for package travel trips canceled on account of COVID-19, despite the Commission’s recommendations for the use of vouchers on 13 May 2020.  

Under EU rules, consumers and travelers retain the right to choose between timely cash refunds (less than 14 days) and travel vouchers redeemable at a later date.

“On 13 May 2020, the Commission adopted a specific Recommendation on vouchers in the current context to support Member States in setting up attractive, reliable and flexible voucher schemes. Nevertheless, in these ten Member States, specific national rules on package travel are still applicable allowing organisers of package travel to issue vouchers, instead of reimbursement in money, for cancelled trips, or to postpone reimbursement far beyond the 14-day period, as set in the Package Travel Directive. Under EU law, passengers have, however, the right to choose between reimbursement in money and other forms of refund, such as a voucher,” the Infringement Package reads.

The above-mentioned Member States will have two months to respond to the Commission’s allegations.

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