Free cancellation due to Corona? The ECJ decides | Free press

A tourist gives up his booking when a pandemic breaks out and travel becomes impossible after a while – do he still have to pay cancellation fees?


The outbreak of the krone pandemic has frustrated myriad travel plans – can tour operators still charge cancellation fees? The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) tends to make vacationer-friendly decisions, but patience is required first: judges in Karlsruhe announced on Tuesday that they would involve the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case. Therefore, a final ruling will only be made once the preliminary Luxembourg decision is available. (Az. X ZR 53/21)

In early 2020, many felt the same as the reason. A man booked a trip to Japan from April 3 to 12. But then Corona came and the whole thing was too risky for him. On March 1, he canceled his booking and paid a cancellation fee of 25%. according to the contract – with a travel price of over 6,000 euros, almost 1,540 euros. In late March, a ban on entry to Japan was issued, and the trip had to be completely canceled. Now the man is demanding a refund from the organizer in Munich.

In accordance with the law, the customer may cancel his reservation at any time. However, the tour operator is entitled to “reasonable compensation” – cancellation fees. The right to withdraw free of charge exists only in exceptional cases “if unavoidable, extraordinary circumstances arise at or in the immediate vicinity of the destination which significantly affect the performance of the package or the transport of passengers to their final destination”.

Is only the time of withdrawal important?

“The decisive question now is: what moment in time is relevant?” Said Senate President Klaus Bacher in a press release. So far, it has been controversial among judges and experts. Some people think that it only matters when you quit. Others say: you also need to look at what happened next.

The District Court of Munich I recently agreed with the organizer on the matter as there was no warning regarding travel to Japan on March 1, 2020. “The significant process of infection is not being reported at this point,” says the verdict.

The highest civil judges of BGH do not agree with this. Bacher said it was not enough to look at the number of infections. After all, all major events in Japan have now been canceled and schools have been closed for several weeks. All of this points to a dangerous situation, Bacher said.

Uniform rules for package tours

It is possible that these details will not matter at all – because with the entry ban, the trip ended anyway. BGH judges believe that this further development of the situation should be taken into account in favor of the claimant.

However, they do not want to stay ahead of the ETS. Because there are uniform rules for package tours in the EU directive. The Austrian Supreme Court, which is dealing with a very similar case, initiated a preliminary ruling procedure in Luxembourg in January. German BGH is now following the same path. The questions were even worded for word, Bacher said.

Many tour operators now offer free rebooking or Corona cancellation under certain conditions. For so-called flexible tariffs, the option can be booked at an additional cost. Travelers who book flights and accommodation on their own are generally not as well protected as vacationers. The same rules do not apply to them. (dpa)

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