CJEU Advocate General: a railway undertaking may not exclude refund of the ticket price in cases of force majeure

The EU Regulation 1371/2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations provides that a passenger who is facing a delay of one hour or more may request a partial refund of the ticket price from the railway company. This compensation is a minimum of 25% of the ticket price for delays of one hour to 119 minutes and a minimum of 50% for delays of two hours or more. The Regulation does not contain any exemption from this right to compensation in cases where the delay is caused by force majeure, such as adverse weather conditions, damage to the railway infrastructure or industrial action.In his opinion delivered today, CJEU Advocate General Jääskinen proposed to answer to a question referred to the CJEU by the Austrian Adminstrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof/VwGH) that a railway company may not exclude its obligation under the Regulation to pay compensation of the ticket price in cases where the delay is caused by force majeure.As regards a further question of the VwGH about the powers of the national body responsible for the enforcement of the Regulation, Advocate General Jääskinen proposed to answer that the Regulation does not allow this body to prescribe, with binding effect on a railwaycompany whose compensation terms do not conform to the criteria laid down in that Regulation, the specific content of the compensation scheme to be used by that railway company when national law permits that body only to declare such compensation terms null and void. However, the legal obligation of a railway company to comply with the Regulation does not depend on the powers of national body or the sanctions available to it.Source: CJEU press release No 27/13 of March 14, 2013Full text of opinion available here>>.

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