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Stakeholders from travel, railway, aviation and consumer organisations discussed ways to strengthen passenger rights and improve the handling of complaints with MEPs and the Director General of the European Commission's Mobility and Transport Directorate-General at a Transport Committee hearing on Tuesday.

A European Parliament survey by rapporteur Georges Bach (EPP, LU), indicates that unclear online pricing, a lack of information while travelling, poor service for passengers with disabilities and complaint procedures need to be addressed urgently. He calls on the Commission to develop a common set of rules, cutting across all transport modes and to ensure that consumer rights are equally applied and enforced throughout the EU.

Evolving rights

A lack of experience in enforcing rights for ship and bus passengers – new rules enter into force at the start of 2013 – prevents the Commission from drawing up a legislative proposal for common rules in all modes, said Matthias Ruete, the Commission’s Director General for transport. But he promised that air passenger rights will undergo a revision, to be tabled by the end of 2012 or early in 2013.

Stop proliferation of unfair commercial practices

Consumer organisations pointed out that the transport sector was the most complaint-intensive sector overall, and warmly welcomed Parliament’s recent efforts to close loopholes in existing legislation via the resolutions drafted by Keith Taylor (Greens/UK) and Georges Bach. Monique Goyens of the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) advocated enforceable pricing rules to halt the proliferation of unfair contractual terms and surcharges for basic services that should be automatically included in the fare.

Need for common complaint procedures

International Air Transport Association (IATA) representative Monique de Smet argued that over-regulation might keep companies from being innovative in their commercial offers, and that the duty to assist stranded passengers should be reduced and put on equal footing with other modes.

All participants in the hearing agreed that information to passengers must be improved, including cross-mode schedule information. They looked forward to complaint procedures and forms following a common pattern, providing legal certainty for both service providers and passengers.

For press conference and Transport and Tourism Committee hearing see VOD (Click on the links on the right)