Danish Court decision on the liability of travel agencies in case of airline bankruptcy
On 2 January 2014 a Danish local Court ruled in a judgment that the online travel agency Goleif.dk is not liable for the loss suffered by a consumer following the bankruptcy of the airline that he should have travelled with. The reason is that Goleif had written clearly on its website that they only act as a mediator and that real counterpart in the transaction was the airline.
The judgment is a break with the past practice of the Consumer Complaints Board which has taken the view that travel agencies can be held liable, and so Goleif should have offered the customer either an alternative flight or a refund when the airline went bankrupt.
The Consumer Complaints Board has received 800 cases concerning ‘agent reservation’, especially concerning the Spanair bankruptcy, which have been awaiting this judgment. It is still unclear how far-reaching the implications of the judgment will be as in this concrete case it appeared very clearly on both the front page and in connection with the payment page on goleif.dk that the agency made an ‘agent reservation’. Also it remains uncertain whether the judgment will be appealed.
The judgment underlines the need for improved consumer protection in connection with airline bankruptcies. The Danish Consumer Council has been working for a strengthening of the rules for many years (which, by the way, has been endorsed by the Danish travel agencies), and currently the issue is being discussed in a committee under the Ministry of Business and Growth where the Danish Consumer Council is represented. Our advice to consumers, in light of the judgment, is that they buy air tickets directly with the airline since the division of liability between the airline and the travel agency if something goes wrong, is unclear after this judgment.