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Consumer watchdog takes Ryanair to court

Sweden's consumer watchdog has decided to take low price airline Ryanair to court.

Consumer watchdog takes Ryanair to court
Photo: Andrew W. Sieber

The Consumer Ombudsman has criticized the airline for not providing proper compensation for cancelled flights.

Ombudsman Gunnar Larsson is to represent a Swedish couple in legal proceedings against the airline.

The couple in question had booked a flight from Brussels to Stockholm in May last year.

On learning that their flight had been cancelled, the couple were offered a place on a flight two days later.

Ryanair agreed to cover the costs of the tickets – 322 kronor – but did not offer any further compensation.

The couple were not offered food or accommodation and were not in a position to wait two days for a flight.

Instead they made their way home using a taxi, train and rental car, for which they requested reimbursement from the airline.

The Consumer Ombudsman accuses Ryanair of breaking the law. As there is no legal precedent and the case is regarded to be of general interest, the ombudsman has agreed to represent the couple in the District Court.

“An airline should book passengers onto another airline if it can’t offer a replacement flight. If there are no available flights, passengers should be offered food and a hotel room. We are of the view that many consumers are affected by the failure of airlines to follow the rules,” said Gunnar Larsson in a statement.

The couple has demanded that their travel costs be reimbursed by Ryanair.

A Ryanair official had a different version of the incident.

“In that case we had seats available the next day and if anyone has to stay at a hotel we naturally pay for that,” Northern Europe director Wilhelm Hamilton told Swedish news agency TT.

He added that Ryanair considered that Swedish compensation rules do not follow European Union regulations.

The agency said that Swedish National Board for Consumer Complaints had on 35 occasions ordered Ryanair to pay compensation to passengers, but the airline had only acquiesced in nine of those cases.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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