Berlin EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders rejects vouchers for canceled trips in the corona crisis. He has now given a clear rejection of the corresponding plans of the federal government. “Member States have to ensure that national decisions are in line with EU law – and that gives consumers the choice between vouchers and reimbursement” Reynders told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.
The EU Package Travel Directive requires repayments to be made within 14 days. According to the will of the federal government, consumers should receive vouchers instead of an immediate repayment when the trip is canceled. The vouchers are to be limited until the end of 2021. If the customer has not redeemed his voucher by then, the organizer must refund the value.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU) and Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz (SPD) had already written to Reynders because a voucher solution would have to be approved by the EU Commission. Several other countries also wanted to contact the Commission.
Altmaier had spoken on Thursday to talks with the EU Commission about a uniform regulation for Europe. The reason: For many travel providers, it would be important to be able to issue vouchers now instead of having to refund the money because of the current crisis and the travel restrictions imposed. In this way, their liquidity can be secured in the crisis, Altmaier told the “Bild” newspaper. For customers who are acutely dependent on repayments, there will be a hardship regulation.
The President of the German Travel Association (DRV), Norbert Fiebig, had recently described the situation of companies in the travel industry as “more than just a threat”. According to the DRV, the travel industry in Germany has to cope with a drop in sales of 4.8 billion euros from mid-March to the end of April alone. 3.5 billion euros are currently flowing out of companies for customer repayments at short notice.
Encouragement instead of commitment
“This leads to an unacceptable economic imbalance,” warned Fiebig. “If Brussels continues to hesitate, the German government will have to take action again and take steps to protect the travel industry very quickly at the national level,” said the DRV President. “If tour operators slip into bankruptcy in large numbers, vacationers will lose a lot of money.”
EU Commissioner Reynders advocated “pragmatic and attractive solutions for companies and consumers”. However, this could only be to encourage consumers to accept vouchers, not to oblige them to do so. Vouchers accepted voluntarily should also be refundable if they were not used and insured against the insolvency of the provider.
The federal government had asked the EU Commission for an exemption from the crisis, since the obligation to reimburse also leads to high cash outflows for airlines because of the almost total collapse in passenger air traffic. To this end, the EU government has presented a detailed proposal with deadlines and hardship regulations. To do this, the EU regulation on passenger rights would have to be changed.
However, the Commission does not want to know anything about a derogation. The FAZ quoted a spokesman for the authority, saying that the legal requirements also apply in unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances, such as those that exist in a pandemic.
More: Read here what consumer advocates think about the voucher solution for canceled trips.