The European Commission announced that it would be launching infringement proceedings against Greece and Italy for violating EU rules protecting passenger rights in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Commission sent letters of formal notice to Greece and Italy last week noting that both countries had taken measures that do not comply with EU rules on air passenger rights and on waterborne travel.
More specifically, according to the Commission, measures Greece implemented which foresee refunds for trips canceled due to Covid-19 in the form of vouchers were in violation to EU directives as are Greek rules on package travel.
Both Greece and Italy have adopted legislation allowing airlines to offer vouchers as the only form of reimbursement. The laws came in response to demands by transport sector and tourism professionals who have been faced with financial strain and limited cash flows due to Covid-19.
However, under EU passenger rights rules, consumers have the right to choose between reimbursement in money and other forms, such as a voucher. If they are offered vouchers, passengers have to agree.
It should be reminded that in May, the Commission presented a package of tourism and transport guidelines to help member states cope in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, with specific reference to travel vouchers. The guidelines clearly stated that consumers whose travel plans were with canceled due Covid-19 had the right to choose between cash refunds or reimbursement via vouchers.
“Throughout this crisis, the Commission has consistently made clear that passenger rights remain valid in the current unprecedented context and national measures to support the industry must not lower them,” it said in a statement.
Greece and Italy have two months to address the arguments raised by the Commission.
Meanwhile, the Commission said it was also assessing the situation in other EU member states by requesting further information on these rules.
Additionally, the Commission also launched infringement proceedings by sending a letter of formal notice to the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia for violation of the EU Package Travel Directive. Italy has also taken measures that do not comply with EU rules on bus and coach travel and rail passenger rights.
The 10 states have national rules on package travel that still allow organizers of package travel to issue vouchers instead of reimbursement in money for canceled trips, or to postpone reimbursement far beyond the 14-day period. Again, under EU rules, consumers have the right to choose whether they want cash refunds or and other forms.