Cracking down on an airline’s flight-cancellation fees, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday July 6th that pricing freedom does not preclude Germany from enforcing its consumer-protection laws.
A federal consumer-protection agency in Germany brought the underlying challenge in 2010 against Air Berlin, taking issue with a term in the airline’s general terms and conditions that makes passengers responsible for a 25 euro handling fee if they seek reimbursement for any canceled or otherwise missed flight booked at an economy rate.
Citing a German law transposing the EU directive on unfair terms, regulators challenged the scheme as unduly burdensome on customers.
The federal court weighing the case meanwhile sought clarification from EU authorities on whether regulators would be precluded from applying its national law since air carriers enjoy pricing freedom by way of the regulation on the operation of air services.
Citing precedent from a 2014 case about Vueling Airlines, Europe’s highest court, the Court of Justice, sided Thursday with regulators.
“The court did not in any way state that pricing freedom precludes, in general, the application of any consumer protection rule,” the ruling states. “On the contrary, the court noted that, without prejudice to the application, in particular, of rules enacted in the field of consumer protection, EU law does not preclude member states from regulating aspects of the contract of carriage by air, in order, in particular, to protect consumers against unfair practices, provided that the pricing provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 are not affected.”
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