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Many consumers opt to travel to multiple destinations as part of their holidays. One of the most popular methods of doing so is by rail, and EU legislation is in place to help ensure that consumer rights are protected if disruption occurs. In this month’s eBulletin, we take a look at passenger entitlements where a rail journey within the EU is disrupted. Our consumer query of the month relates to rail travel, while our success story concerns a consumer who was charged in error for car rental.

If you are experiencing problems with a purchase from another European country, please contact us on 01 8797 620 or click here. For information on your consumer rights in Europe, please see our website at www.eccireland.ie.

Grace Duffy
Press and Communications Officer

 

Rail travel

EU Regulation 1371/2007 sets out certain rights for rail passengers travelling within the EU. These are broadly divided into six basic rights, which apply to all rail transport services, and a number of additional rights which apply predominantly to international rail services.

The six basic rights which apply to all EU rail services are as follows:

 

  • Buying tickets – passengers must have the option of purchasing tickets from staffed stations, ticket counters, selling machines, or via the internet. If none of these options are available, it should be possible to purchase tickets on the train itself.
  • Safe travelling – rail carriers and station managers are obliged to put in place adequate measures to ensure passenger safety. This applies to train stations as well as travel on board trains.
  • Assistance for passengers with reduced mobility – passengers with a disability or reduced mobility are entitled to purchase tickets without any additional charge. Station managers and rail carriers must apply and develop non-discriminatory access rules so as to reduce any burdens faced by passengers in travelling.
  • Accessibility information – information on the accessibility of rail transport services, passenger coaches, and on-board facilities for persons of reduced mobility must be provided at the passenger’s request.
  • Compensation for injury or death and liability for luggage – where a passenger dies or is seriously injured in the course of travel, rail carriers must compensate the passenger or their family. This applies so long as the cause of the incident was within the rail carrier’s control. The carrier must also compensate passengers if registered luggage is damaged (in the event of death or serious injury, compensation must also be paid for hand luggage).
  • Adequate insurance – rail carriers are obliged to take out adequate insurance to cover their liabilities in respect of passengers and luggage under the Regulation.

 

In addition to the above, additional rights apply to some European domestic routes and all international train services within the EU:[1]

 

  • Right to information – passengers must be informed about their rights, and kept informed about any delays or disruption to international rail transport services.
  • Assistance for persons with reduced mobility – passengers with a disability or reduced mobility are entitled to assistance when boarding international trains. Passengers should provide at least 48 hours’ notice of the intended journey. A communication tool such as a phone line or specific website may be set up by the rail carrier for this purpose.
  • Reimbursement and rerouting – where a delay of more than 60 minutes in reaching the final destination is anticipated, passengers must be offered a choice between –
    • Reimbursement of the cost of the ticket;
    • Continuation or rerouting to the final destination at the earliest opportunity;
    • Continuation or rerouting to the final destination at a later date of convenience.
  • Compensation – rail passengers are entitled to compensation if their train arrives at least 60 minutes late at the final destination. Such compensation is calculated by reference to the length of the delay and the price paid for the delayed train service.
  • Assistance in case of delay or cancellation – where the train is delayed by more than 60 minutes, passengers should be offered meals or refreshments and, if such becomes necessary, accommodation. If the train is blocked on the track, transport from the train to the station or to the final destination should also be arranged.

 

For more information on rail passenger rights in the EU, please see our website. Consumers travelling in Europe this summer can also avail of the recently-launched ECC-Net travel app, which provides information on consumer rights across a range of areas including rail, air, and coach travel; car rental, retail purchases, and accommodation. The app is available for Android, iOS, and Windows devices and can be downloaded for free from the relevant app stores.

 

Consumer Query of the Month

I booked a train journey from Florence to Paris last month but the leg from Turin to Paris was cancelled due to a strike. This meant that I missed my connection to the Eurostar and had to find alternative means of transport back to Dublin. What compensation can I claim? 

EU legislation on rail passenger rights provides that a passenger facing cancellation or delay of an hour or more shall have the choice between:

  • Reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket for the journey, or part of the journey, not made (or for the part already made if the journey is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, in which case the passenger should be provided with a return service to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity).

(or)

  • Continuation of the journey or re-routing, under comparable conditions, to the final destination at the earliest opportunity or to the final destination on a later date at the passenger’s convenience.

 

I am unsure if you continued your journey or made travel arrangements home from Italy but if a passenger elects to continue his or her journey despite a delay, (s)he is entitled to partial reimbursement of the price paid for the ticket. The amount to be reimbursed will depend on the length of the delay. In the event of a delay of over 60 minutes, passengers should receive at least 25% of the ticket price. In the event of a delay of 120 minutes or more, passengers should receive 50% of the price of the ticket. The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that this compensation is payable even in cases of force majeure.

The international Uniform Rules concerning the Contract for International Carriage of Passengers and Luggage by Rail are also applicable. These provide that railway carriers are liable to passengers for damage or loss resulting from the delay or cancellation of a train (including ancillary expenses). However, the carrier is exempted from this obligation if the disruption arose due to circumstances not connected with the operation of the railway and which the carrier could not avoid, e.g. weather conditions or strikes.

Under these rules thus, you will only be able to claim for the parts of the journey not made due to the cancellation. Certain railways, on a voluntary basis, offer compensation in excess of the minimum requirements set out in the Passenger Rights Regulation. I would therefore suggest that you check the terms and conditions of your ticket to see whether you can make any additional claims.

 

Success Story of the Month

A UK consumer attempted to make a booking for a rental car via an Irish online agent. During the booking process the trader’s website crashed and the consumer did not receive any booking confirmation. They decided to book elsewhere but later discovered that their card had been charged. The consumer was unable to obtain a refund and ultimately sought assistance from ECC-Net. We contacted the trader concerned, who investigated the matter and promptly refunded the consumer the amount of 70 EUR.

 

If you want more information on this or any other cross-border consumer issue, please contact us on 01 8797 620 or go to www.eccireland.ie.

 

[1] In principle, the Regulation applies to all rail journeys and services throughout the EU. However, Member States may derogate from a significant portion of these rules for domestic rail passenger services (until 2024) and local services (i.e. urban, suburban, and regional services) and for international services if a significant part of the journey is provided outside the EU. For example, in Ireland, only the Dublin-Belfast route is covered by the additional protections of the Regulation at present. Nonetheless, the six basic rights above are mandatory for all kinds of railway services within the European Union and Member States may not derogate from same.