The Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss suffered a legal defeat before the Higher Regional Court of Vienna due to a lawsuit brought by the Association for Consumer Information. Three clauses concerning the refund of ticket money have been declared illegal. The judgment is already final.
On behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Association for Consumer Information has gone to court against those points in Swiss's General Conditions of Carriage that regulate the reimbursement of ticket money. The Air Passenger Rights Ordinance stipulates that the price paid for a canceled flight must be repaid within seven days if this is requested by the passenger.
A Swiss clause stipulated that refunds for flight tickets paid for by credit card should only be credited to the account with which the tickets were originally paid for. This clause completely excludes other types of repayment. This contradicts the passenger rights regulation, which provides for payment methods such as bank transfer, check or cash payment, and is therefore not permitted.
"Such clauses are particularly problematic if, when making a booking, the flight price was paid with an intermediary's credit card without the passenger's knowledge," explains Maximilian Kemetmüller, the responsible lawyer at VKI, explaining the disadvantage of this clause. "If there is a refund on this credit card, the passengers often only get the ticket price refunded with a considerable delay and in some cases not at all."
In addition, there is the fact that Swiss was referred to tickets that were booked through agents. However, especially during the corona pandemic, it has become apparent that these are often difficult to grasp and definitely refer to the airline and do not feel responsible. "This judgment once again confirmed the view of the VKI that a passenger is entitled to receive the refund directly from the airline. A repayment of ticket costs to an online booking platform is not sufficient,” says Kemetmüller.
The VKI also objected to a clause that stipulated that if there was "satisfactory proof" of the payment, this could not be made to the passenger but to the payer. The Higher Regional Court of Vienna declared the clause inadmissible because it is unclear what exactly is to be understood by "satisfactory proof". According to the Vienna Higher Regional Court, a clause that provides for a payment to the person who paid for the ticket for tickets that refer to a "limitation of reimbursement" is also inadmissible. The court states that an average consumer usually does not understand to what extent a "ticket indicates a limitation of the refund".