Airline problems prompted most complaints to EU consumer body

Air travel, car hire, electronic goods, furniture and hotels caused the greatest number of cross-border headaches for Irish people last year, a new report finds.

The Irish arm of the pan-EU European Consumer Centre (ECC) was contacted by 4,337 consumers at home and abroad last year, up almost 24 per cent on 2015.

The centre helps consumers tackle cross-border complaints and actively pursued 719 issues last year.

Of that number, 167 involved issues Irish consumers had with traders based in other European countries while 552 cases related to complaints by consumers from other European countries against Irish traders.

Most airline related complaints were made by consumers based in another EU country against Irish airlines. Ryanair, one of the biggest airlines in Europe, is headquartered in the State.

Flight cancellations and delays were the number one cause for passenger complaints followed by luggage issues, booking errors, denied boarding, and passenger illness.

There were 78 cases linked to car hire raised, with 59 of these originating with consumers based in other countries who complained about car rental firms in Ireland.

The supplementary charges imposed when returning cars were the most problematic area of complaint, followed by problems with the booking process, and hard-selling techniques for additional products such as insurance.

Last year was the first since 2011 that hotels and accommodation services entered the top five complaints. This was largely because of the increasing number of consumers choosing to book their own accommodation rather than opting for package holidays.

Complaints involved problems with online bookings such as difficulties trying to cancel, not knowing who the contract is with, and the standard and quality of the accommodation.

Other issues related to overcharging, mistakes with details of bookings, and problems encountered during the booking process.

Complaints:

– A consumer from Ireland hired a car in Spain. When returning it, the person asked if they should sign any form, but was told it was unnecessary. On return to Ireland she noticed her credit card had been charged €230.

When she contacted the rental company, she was told the car had been damaged during her hire period. The consumer requested relevant repair paperwork. It was not provided, she contacted ECC Ireland and ECC Spain secured a refund of €180.

– During his holiday in Ireland, a French consumer hired a car, paying a deposit of €1,300. The car rental company said it would refund the deposit provided no damage was caused. The company failed to return the deposit with no explanation. The French ECC contacted the trader via ECC Ireland. The trader explained that damage to the front passenger side had been found but as the damage was not found during check in and both parties had left without this noted, the company removed the charge.

– A Spanish consumer rented a car in Ireland. Additional charges were applied as the car hire company said the vehicle should have been returned with a full tank. The consumer furnished a receipt from a petrol station to show he had refilled the tank before returning the vehicle. No agreement was reached, the ECC intervened and the trader agreed to refund €85.90.

Air travel

– Following a flight between Faro and Charleroi, upon picking up her luggage at the airport carousel, a consumer noticed that her hard-shell suitcase had been dented. She immediately reported the damage to airport authorities and received a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) form which she subsequently used to register a claim for compensation online.

Having received no response from the airline, she contacted the ECC. The ECC asked the consumer to provide receipts reflecting the purchase price of the damaged luggage which was €120 and contacted the airline. Reflecting the age of the case, the airline gave her €90.

– A consumer returning from holidays found that her luggage did not arrive. Having reported the matter to the airport authorities, she was told her luggage would be delivered to her home. The first item arrived the following day. The woman was told by airport authorities that the airline had not paid for the courier to deliver a second piece of luggage that arrived a few days later.

The airline involved initially refused redress but after ECC Ireland intervention it provided reimbursement of €220 for items the consumer needed to buy while waiting for her luggage, as well as €100 compensation for the costs sustained by the consumer in travelling to the airport to collect her second piece of luggage.

– A consumer and his family were returning home from a holiday when they received a text message saying their flight had been cancelled. Having made enquiries with the airline involved and receiving information that the next available flight would not be that day, they booked a flight with another airline.

Later that day when the consumer had returned to his home country, he received a text notification that the original flight had been reinstated. Although the airline initially refused to provide any redress to the consumer in this case, following intervention by ECC Ireland, the airline agreed to provide the compensation in the amount of €1,500.

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