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Case Details

Case Details
National ID The Market Court, Judgement 1/19
Jäsenvaltio Suomi
Common Name N/A
Decision type Court decision, first degree
Decision date 04/01/2019
Tuomioistuin Markkinaoikeus
Aihe
Kantaja
Vastaaja
Avainsanat complaints, consumer rights, evidence, performance, transport

Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, Chapter 2, Section 1, Article 6, 1. Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, Chapter 2, Section 1, Article 6, 1., (g) Injunctions Directive, link

The Consumer Ombudsman stated that Finnair Oyj (the defendant) had not complied with its obligation under the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council to pay standard compensation to air passengers as a result of flight delays or cancellations. It also considered that the settlement offers submitted by the defendant to its customers constituted unfair conduct within the meaning of Chapter 2 of the Consumer Protection Act. On this basis, the Consumer Ombudsman demanded that the Market Court prohibit the defendant from continuing or repeating the illegal practice with a fine of EUR 500,000. The defendant disputed the claims and considered that it had met all the conditions for maintenance and, in addition, had taken all reasonably foreseeable measures to prevent the flights from being cancelled or delayed in the event of a failure. The Market Court rejected the Consumer Ombudsman's claims.

In the cases raised by the Consumer Ombudsman, the defendant had refused to pay the standard compensation under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 to its customers for its delayed and cancelled flights. The defendant had justified the non-payment of compensation with various unexpected technical defects and manufacturing defects in the aircraft. However, the defendant gave customers gift cards and compensations worth between EUR 125 and EUR 250, provided that the customers accepted them as a settlement and waived their rights to the standard compensation.

The Consumer Ombudsman held that the defendant was not entitled to refuse to pay the standard compensation on the grounds of a manufacturing defect or a surprising unforeseen technical defect which could not have been avoided by proactive measures, as such defects were not themselves covered by the extraordinary circumstances of the Regulation. The Consumer Ombudsman based its claim on the fact that the exemption from the standard compensation required a notification from the manufacturer or the aviation safety authority. In addition, it considered that the settlement offers submitted by the defendant to its customers constituted unfair conduct within the meaning of Chapter 2 of the Consumer Protection Act, as they meant waiving the consumer's statutory rights as part of the trader's offer. According to the defendant and its witnesses, the cases had involved security risks or unexpected flight safety shortcomings that affected the operation of air carriers, the airline had no factual control over the defects, the defects had not occurred during pre-planned maintenance procedures, and the defects were not caused by maintenance deficiencies.

The Market Court considered whether the exemption from the standard compensation of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 required a notification from the manufacturer or the aviation safety authority, as well as whether the settlement offers submitted by the defendant to its customers constituted unfair conduct within the meaning of the Consumer Protection Act.

The Market Court held that since it could not be unequivocally considered from the legal rule or case law on standard compensation of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, that the exemption from the standard compensation required a declaration from the manufacturer or the aviation safety authority, as suggested by the Consumer Ombudsman, the claims had to be rejected. It was therefore not necessary to assess whether the defendant had grounds for waiving the standard compensation or whether the defendant had acted in breach of the consumer protection provisions by refusing to pay the standard compensation in its replies to passengers and by offering financial benefits below the standard compensation.

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The Market Court found that the exemption from the standard compensation of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 did not require a notification from the manufacturer or the aviation safety authority as it could not be unequivocally considered to be the case from the legal rule or case law on the Regulation. Therefore, there was no need to assess whether the defendant had acted in breach of the Consumer Protection Act. Thus, the Market Court rejected the Consumer Ombudsman's application.