How will the Consumer Rights Act 2015 apply to the transport sectors?
CRA position for transport services
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) came into force on 1st October 2015 with the aim of streamlining and enhancing consumer rights in respect of the purchase of goods, services and digital content.
An exception to the 1st October 2015 'in force' date related to consumer transport services in the maritime, rail and aviation sectors. This was instead provisionally set at 6th April 2016.
The delay for transport services was intended to allow the Government to consult with the relevant sector bodies; to determine whether or not consumer transport services should be permanently exempted from the scope of certain CRA provisions.
The relevant CRA provisions for the purposes of the 'transport' exemption are:
- Section 57(3) CRA, which prohibits traders from limiting their liability to consumers for breach of any of the statutory rights provided under CRA to less than the price paid.
- Section 57(4)(a) CRA, which provides that a term of a consumer service contract is not binding if it excludes or restricts a consumer's right or remedy for breach of any of the statutory rights.
- The relevant statutory rights for the purpose of these sections are: to provide the services with reasonable care and skill, at a reasonable price and within a reasonable time.
The above exemptions would apply to the extent to which the relevant transport services are covered by existing EU regulation and rules. Consumers are likely to still be able to bring a claim under the CRA for non-EU regulated service elements (i.e. if on-board WIFI is promised but not provided).
Although the Government consultation results have not yet been published, it was announced in April that consumer transport services will not be exempt permanently from the CRA scope. Instead, the implementation date has been set as 1st October 2016.
This will be a phased process, to allow organisations operating in the transport sectors to review and amend their consumer rights schemes to align with the CRA provisions.
Current position for consumers
The following summaries are in respect of EU-based travel (i.e. where a passenger is either departing from, or travelling to, an EU territory).
Maritime transport services
The relevant legislation with regard to travel by sea and inland waterways includes EU Regulation No 1177/2010 (in force since 18 December 2012). The minimum rights for passengers under this Regulation include, by way of brief summary:
- a right to non-discriminatory contract conditions
- rights to care and assistance (including refreshments in the case of delays of more than 90 minutes)
- rights to re-routing and reimbursement in case of cancellation or delay of departure (in particular, where delay is more than 90 minutes)
- a right to request partial compensation of the ticket price in the case of delay in arrival (ranging from 25% to 50% of the ticket price, depending on the duration of the delay compared to the relative journey time)
- rights afforded to disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility (i.e. right of access to the transport, compensation for loss or damage to mobility equipment)
- a right to submit complaints to the carriers (i.e. ferries / terminal operators) and national enforcement bodies (NEBs). For UK maritime transport, the NEB is the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Air transport services
The relevant legislation for air passenger rights includes Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 (in force since 17 February 2005). Rights are also afforded under the Conventions for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (Warsaw 1929 and Montreal 1999). Compensation arrangements under the air Regulation and Conventions, by way of brief summary, are:
- a right to assistance (such as food, drink, access to communications and overnight accommodation and transport to / from accommodation) in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or delay (over 2 hours) at the airport of departure
- if boarding is denied or if a flight is cancelled or delayed at the airport of departure for 5 hours or more, in addition to the above-noted assistance, the right:
- to a full refund of ticket price within 7 days;
- a return flight to the first point of departure
- in the event of denied boarding and cancellation, an option to be re-routed to the passenger's final destination (although this option will not trigger the right to a refund)
- if a passenger is denied boarding, or their flight is cancelled or delayed by more than 3 hours, for flights within the EU, compensation of:
- €250 for flights of 1,500 km or less; or
- €400 for flights over 1,500 km
- and for other flights with an EU connection, compensation of:
- €250 for flights of 1,500 km or less;
- €400 for flights of between 1,500 km and 3,500 km; or
- €600 for flights of over 3,500 km
- priority rights (i.e. in the event of denied boarding) afforded to disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility
- a right to submit complaints to the carriers (airline) and national enforcement bodies (NEBs). For UK air transport, the NEB is the Civil Aviation Authority
Rail transport services
The relevant legislation for rail passenger rights includes Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 (in force since 3 December 2009). The minimum rights for passengers under the rail Regulation include, by way of brief summary:
- a right for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility to receive assistance on board and during boarding and disembarking free of charge
- a right to receive information, in an appropriate format:
- pre-journey information such as contract conditions, delays, on-board services and lost-luggage procedures; and
- information during the journey such as what services are offered on-board, which station is next, is the train delayed and, if yes, when is it expected to arrive
- a right to board with a bicycle (if they are easy to handle and if the service is not adversely affected by such carriage)
- a right, if a delay of at least 60 minutes is foreseeable, to immediately have the choice between:
- reimbursement of the full ticket cost
- continuation of the journey or re-routing to the passenger's final destination at the earliest opportunity or at a later date if more convenient for the passenger
- a right, if the passenger continues his or her journey, to compensation of the following minimum levels:
- 25% of the ticket price for delays of between 60 and 119 minutes; and
- 50% of the ticket price for delays of at least 120 minutes
- a right, for delays of at least 60 minutes, to be offered free meals and refreshments
- a right to free overnight accommodation and transport from / to the station where there is a delay for one or more night
- a right, if the train is blocked 'on-track', to transport from the train to the railway station of departure or to the final destination
- a right to alternative transport services if a railway service cannot be continued
- a right to submit complaints to the carriers (train operating company) and national enforcement bodies (NEBs). For UK rail transport, the NEB is the Office of Rail Regulation
The full Government consultation response document is still awaited. This will help businesses to understand the detailed reasoning behind the Government's decision to include transport services within the scope of the CRA provisions.
However, businesses in the transport sector should be preparing for the CRA's implementation on 1st October 2016.
One key issue, though, to bear in mind is that, in the event of service delays or cancellations, service providers may be prevented from limiting liability to less than the price paid by the consumer.