Consumer Ombudsman takes Finnair to Market Court for breach of air passengers’ rights

The Consumer Ombudsman has filed an application to the Market Court for an injunction for Finnair’s practice of denying passengers the full standard compensation when the reason for the cancellation or delay of a flight is an unexpected technical fault caused, according to Finnair, by a manufacturing or design fault. This, however does not as such qualify as a reason for not paying the standard compensation according to the case law of the European Court of Justice.

Instead of paying the passengers the standard compensation, Finnair usually offers them a voucher or cash that is lower than the standard compensation. The requirement for accepting such an offer is that passengers waive their right to their statutory right to the full standard compensation. When answering consumers, Finnair gives a misleading picture of the requirements of current legal practice, Finnair’s obligations and passenger rights. It is for these practices, too, that the Consumer Ombudsman is seeking an injunction from the Market Court.

The Consumer Ombudsman is demanding that the Market Court include a conditional fine of EUR 500,000 to each of these three injunctions. The Consumer Ombudsman’s application was submitted to the Market Court on Wednesday, 27 September 2017. Before submitting the matter to be decided by the Market Court, the Consumer Ombudsman and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi have had lengthy negotiations with Finnair.

Hundreds of complaints and mandatory EU-rules in the background

Hundreds of consumers have been in contact since autumn 2015 with the Consumer Ombudsman and consumer right advisers working at register offices, complaining that Finnair has not paid them the standard compensation for flight cancellation or delay that they are entitled to by law, ranging between EUR 250 and EUR 600 depending on the length of the flight and destination.

The EU regulation on air passenger rights states their minimum rights if, for example, their flight is cancelled or delayed. The regulation and the established practice of the European Court of Justice indicate when passengers have the right to the standard compensation when a flight is cancelled or delayed, and also when the airline does not have to pay the standard compensation. The regulation specifies the amount of standard compensation that airlines are obliged to pay.

The primary objective of the Consumer Ombudsman is to make the company acting in breach of the law to stop doing so or to persuade it to change its actions voluntarily. If the company cannot be persuaded to discontinue its illegal practice, the Consumer Ombudsman will have to resort to coercive measures or to submit the case to a court of law. The Consumer Ombudsman will not comment on the case while it is being processed by a court of law.

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