Flight Troubles? Alternatives beyond legal tech to mediate your disputes
In 2022, an article in Bloomberg presented Europe as the worst place to travel, due to high fare costs and a significant number of flight delays and cancellations. Unfortunately, with events such as strikes that we have witness, it appears that 2023 may not bring much relief for air passengers in Europe. However, it's essential to be aware that under the EU Regulation on Air Passenger Rights, travellers might have more rights than what they are aware of.
However, it's not always necessary to rely on paid companies in order to act on rights such as the option of dispute resolution.
Due to aggressive marketing strategies, many consumers end up on the websites of so-called Legal Tech companies. These companies specialise in utilising modern technologies to simplify common legal cases or provide access to legal services. They usually focus on smaller, recurring, and straightforward situations, such as flight compensations. Well-known providers in this field include Flightright, Flugrecht.de, and EUclaim, who assist and, in certain cases, achieve success in enforcing the rights of air travellers. These Legal Tech companies retain a portion of the compensation as their fee, the amount of which varies and should be carefully examined beforehand.
Arbitration as a free alternative
While Legal Tech companies collaborate with law firms, their ability to compel airlines to pay compensation relies on the case going to court and being ruled in favor of the traveler. In situations where the claim is nearing its expiration, Legal Tech companies often decline to pursue the case further.
What many passengers may not be aware of is that submitting a complaint to an arbitration board can suspend the statute of limitations. This means that the expiration period temporarily stops counting down, allowing passengers more time to seek resolution.
Arbitration boards across Europe provide free assistance to consumers. In the event of an agreement with the airline, affected passengers are entitled to receive the full compensation without incurring any fees.
Advantages of arbitration boards
In addition to being free of charge, arbitration boards handle a wide range of cases, including those that involve legal complexities. They possess the necessary expertise to evaluate cases from a legal standpoint, ensuring fair and impartial resolution.
While arbitration boards do not have the authority to enforce payment from airlines, if both parties agree to an arbitration recommendation, it becomes binding. In cases where the airline fails to comply with the agreed-upon arbitration proposal, passengers can pursue legal action to enforce it.
Given the backlog of cases in traditional courts, arbitration can be a practical and efficient option for resolving disputes for European passengers.
To assist passengers in navigating the dispute resolution process, the European Union provides resources and support. The national contact points for online dispute resolution, available in each EU member country, can provide free advice and help passengers find the appropriate institution for their specific case.
Moreover, the European Consumer Centre in each member country offers valuable information and tools. For example, the Decision Support Click Tool, available through the European Consumer Centre websites, provides an initial overview of entities that assist with flight-related issues and outlines the advantages and disadvantages of different dispute resolution approaches.
Organizations Offering Free Assistance
In Europe, there are several organizations that offer free assistance for dispute resolution in the aviation sector:
1. National Arbitration Boards: Each EU member country has its own national arbitration board, such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority or the French Centre de Médiation Tourisme Voyage.
2. European Consumer Centres (ECC): ECCs are present in every EU member country and provide free assistance to consumers, regardless of their nationality or the airline's location.
These organizations aim to provide accessible and efficient support to passengers across Europe, helping them navigate the complex process of resolving flight-related disputes.