The Lufthansa subsidiary Brussels Airlines was ordered by the district court of Düsseldorf to provide an e-mail address on the homepage for customers to contact. So far, this has not been the case, even though there is a legal obligation to do so.
The North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center is currently taking action against various airlines that are accused of being difficult to reach. For example, a lawsuit is being filed against Condor and Iberia because they "only referred to their contact form" for claims based on EU Regulation 261/2004. This should be inadmissible from the point of view of consumer protection. Since previous warnings have not achieved the desired result, you go to court.
In general, the consumer advice center recorded an increased number of complaints in the area of air travel this summer. Some carriers are said to be uncooperative when it comes to refunds for canceled flights and/or compensation payments under the Air Passenger Rights Ordinance. The general accessibility of the hotlines should also be problematic. "The problems range from permanent queues on the telephone hotline to clear violations of legal requirements for contacting people," says Wolfgang Schuldzinski, head of the NRW consumer advice center.
Failure to comply can even lead to imprisonment
Legal action has also been taken against Brussels Airlines. The proceedings are being conducted by the District Court of Düsseldorf under file number 12 O 219/22. At the request of the consumer advice center, an injunction was issued, which effectively forces the Lufthansa subsidiary to provide an e-mail address on the homepage for contact purposes. Failure to comply with this can result in a fine of up to 250.000 euros.
"Airlines must enable fast electronic communication and provide the appropriate contact options on their website," says Schuldzinski. "This also includes the mandatory provision of an e-mail address that is easy to find." The court argued similarly in the justification for the injunction. If Brussels Airlines does not comply with the judicial measure and the 250.000 euros cannot be collected, the management could even be imprisoned as an alternative.
Consumer advocates are again calling for the abolition of prepayment
The consumer center is of the opinion that the abolition of the prepayment principle would lead to fewer complaints about the behavior of airlines. According to the Air Passenger Rights Ordinance, the ticket money must be refunded within seven days if it is canceled. Substitute transport must also be provided, but many providers do not take it very seriously. The consumer advocates explain that the payouts would still "often take significantly longer than seven days". And this despite the fact that the industry has promised improvement after the reimbursements that were deliberately delayed at the beginning of the corona pandemic.
Due to the large number of flight irregularities that occurred in the summer of 2022, claims for compensation and refunds are becoming an increasing problem. Many carriers try to put them off as much as possible, which also means that some German courts are being overwhelmed with complaints from passengers. The consumer advice center points out that around 1.900 flights have been canceled in Düsseldorf and Cologne/Bonn alone in the last two months. "The fact that travelers have to pay the entire fare in advance, granting the airlines an interest-free loan and even bearing the risk of insolvency is completely inappropriate," said Schuldzinski.