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Deutsche Bahn: From Wednesday, travelers will have fewer rights


Highlights: A new EU regulation will change some passenger rights – not always in favor of rail passengers, consumer advocates criticize. If the train arrives at the destination station more than an hour late, you can demand a refund of 25 percent of the fare, and even 50 percent if it takes more than two hours. Deutsche Bahn: In the event of "ordinary storms" will continue to be compensated. Hotel accommodation may be limited in certain cases, if in a small time and in exceptional circumstances are cause of the train cancellations.

As of Wednesday, a new EU regulation will change some passenger rights – not always in favor of rail passengers, consumer advocates criticize.

Berlin/Kehl – Every train passenger knows this: If the train is cancelled or severely delayed, they have the right to a partial refund of the fare from a certain period of time. Some of these rights will change from 7 June (Wednesday). Then the new version of the EU regulation "on the rights and obligations of rail passengers" will come into force.

What's in store for rail passengers? An overview:

If the train arrives at the destination station more than an hour late, you can demand a refund of 25 percent of the fare, and even 50 percent if it takes more than two hours. So far, the cause of the delay has not played a role. This is changing.

From 7 June, there will be scenarios in which the right to compensation will no longer apply. Specifically, they are laid down in Article 19 of the new regulation.

Extraordinary circumstances - what does it include?

This includes extraordinary circumstances that are beyond the control of the railway company, such as extreme weather, people on the tracks or cable theft. Important: Strikes by railway staff are not included.

So in the future, will the onset of winter be enough to exclude compensation? It is precisely the question of what extreme weather is within the meaning of this regulation that will still occupy courts, estimates Gregor Kolbe of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv). His fear is: "The railway companies will now use this more often to reject demands."

This is reminiscent of the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, the interpretation of which regularly occupies courts. In the case of flights, however, lump-sum compensation amounts with a range of 250 to 600 euros usually involve much more money than rail reimbursements, where it is often only double-digit amounts. That's why Kolbe also fears: In case of doubt, rail passengers will probably not take legal action more often, although they might be justified - simply because the effort is not worth it.

Passengers at the station: Passenger rights are changing in some cases. © Andreas Arnold / dpa


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Deutsche Bahn: In the event of "ordinary storms" will continue to be compensated

According to Deutsche Bahn, the way the company will implement the new EU rules will have little impact on most customers. "Ordinary storms are explicitly excluded," said Stefanie Berk, Chief Marketing Officer at DB Fernverkehr AG, with a view to the new restrictions on compensation. An example of an extraordinary natural event in the sense of EU rules would have been the flood of the century in the Ahr valley in the summer of 2021. In such cases, however, accommodating arrangements will continue to be made in the future and the customer will be accommodated.

Cases where Deutsche Bahn will no longer compensate in the future are cable thefts, emergencies on the train or people on the track, which are also mentioned in the new EU regulation. According to Berk, however, such scenarios account for only a vanishingly small proportion of passenger rights cases that end up at Deutsche Bahn.

Important: Railway companies can only invoke extraordinary circumstances in the case of claims for compensation. Other obligations remain unaffected: for example, that in the event of major delays, the onward journey must be organised by another route or that the passenger can be reimbursed for the fare (Article 18 of the Regulation).

Passenger rights: Hotel accommodation may be limited in certain cases

This is largely without prejudice to the right to assistance in the event of delays of more than an hour or train cancellations - for example, that the railway company must take care of meals and refreshments in a reasonable proportion to the waiting time and, if necessary, accommodation in a hotel.

There is a small change in hotel accommodation. If exceptional circumstances are the cause of the train cancellations, the railway company may limit hotel accommodation to a maximum of three nights, according to Article 20 of the Regulation. There was no such restriction before.

In the future, it will be possible to rebook on your own - at the expense of the railway

Apart from the question of reimbursement, in the event of foreseeable delays of more than one hour at the destination station, passengers generally have the choice of having the fare reimbursed or continuing their journey. If they decide to continue their journey, they can continue at the next opportunity or at a later date of their choice, always choosing a different, comparable connection. According to the regulation (Article 18), the railway undertaking must offer them the option.

From 7 June, according to the European Consumer Centre (ECC), the following applies: You may also be rebooked by the railway company on the train of another provider for your onward journey. And on the other hand, rail passengers are explicitly granted the right to continue their journey on their own. The costs incurred can then be reclaimed from the railway company.

Prerequisites: The passenger must either obtain the consent of the railway company for the rebooking. Or: The passenger was not informed of alternative onward travel options by the railway company within 100 minutes of the scheduled departure time, the missed connection or the cancelled transport service. In such cases, you can take care of alternative connections yourself. Restriction: The ordinance explicitly mentions rail or bus connections of other "public transport services". This, in turn, is viewed critically by consumer advocates.

For example, the ECC welcomes the fact that from now on there is the possibility to organize the rebooking yourself. Because: "Many railway companies have not offered rebooking in the past," reports EVZ lawyer André Schulze-Wethmar. "In addition, they have often refused to pay for the costs of self-organized rebookings." However, he is critical of the fact that flights, for example, are not mentioned as a rebooking option. "Especially for long cross-border journeys, rebooking on an aircraft is often the most practical and often the most cost-effective solution," says Schulze-Wethmar. Rental cars are also not mentioned in the regulation.

More rights for through tickets

Suppose you book a night train ride with one provider and a ticket with a second train company that you want to use to travel to the point of departure of the night train. Then exactly this train is cancelled, which is why you do not arrive and the night train leaves without you. In such a case, you are entitled to a refund for the first ticket, but you would be left with the cost of the expired night train ticket.

Unless you have booked both tickets as a through ticket - this is valid for the entire route including transfers. For such tickets, the new EU regulation creates more rights for rail passengers in Article 12, but at the same time leaves further loopholes for companies, such as consumer advocates criticize.

What applies: If you buy a journey with several connections or several tickets within a business transaction from a railway company, then this is considered a through ticket. In this case, rail passengers are entitled to the normal rail passenger rights with reimbursement claims and the like for the entire rail journey.

If you have purchased several tickets - within a business transaction - from an independent ticket seller or a tour operator who combines these tickets into one trip himself, the following applies according to the amended EU regulation: If you miss a connection, the provider must refund the entire ticket price and pay an additional 75 percent of the ticket price as compensation.

What applies to separate contracts of carriage

Sounds great, but there is a catch: if you are informed on the tickets or on a supplementary information sheet before the purchase that the tickets are separate transport contracts, these rights do not apply.

Kolbe from the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations clarifies what this means: "So if the fine print says that these are two separate tickets, they do not have continuous passenger rights. This keeps loopholes open."

In case of doubt, rail passengers can only read carefully before buying or ask the provider whether it is a through ticket if they want to know that passenger rights are on their side at all times for possible problems on the journey.

Problem with long journeys often remains unsolved

According to André Schulze-Wethmar of the European Consumer Centre, the new regulations on through tickets do not solve the essential problem of longer rail journeys anyway.

This is because cross-border journeys usually involve different railway companies. This means that the obligation laid down in the new regulation for individual railway companies to offer through tickets at least for all transport services operated by them does not apply at this point, Schulze-Wethmar criticises.

"We have already received many complaints in the past that no through ticket is offered for long distances," says Schulze-Wethmar. "Instead, sections abroad had to be booked separately." If the train is delayed and the connection is missed as a result, rail passengers will have to bear the costs of rebooking themselves in such cases.

Shorter deadline for complaints - DB terminates goodwill

The deadline to reclaim money from the railway company in the event of a delay or train cancellation has so far been one year after the expiry of the validity of the ticket, reports the ECC. In the future, travellers may have to take action more quickly. Three months after the incident, the complaint must be filed at the latest, according to Article 28 of the new regulation.

However, Deutsche Bahn does not want to handle this so strictly, marketing director Berk has announced. "We will continue to accept applications after that," she said. In case of doubt, the one-year period previously applied to DB would continue to apply here. In practice, this is rarely an issue anyway, if you follow Berk: "Even today, 97 percent of all applications are submitted within 90 days."

Where the EU regulation is valid

The regulation on rail passenger rights applies to long-distance and local transport in all EU member states as well as in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. It sets out the minimum requirements. This means that the individual states, but also individual companies, can set even more consumer-friendly rules.

In Germany, there are two examples of consumer-friendly rules from the Railway Transport Ordinance (EVO) that go beyond the EU Rail Passenger Rights Regulation:

What else applies in Germany

For example, according to Article 8 of the EVO, holders of a regional train ticket can, under certain circumstances, alternatively transfer to a higher-value train (which does not require a reservation) - for example an ICE - if the delay at the destination station is foreseeable to be more than 20 minutes. To do this, you first have to buy an ICE ticket, but you can reclaim the costs later.

And: If the scheduled arrival time is between 0:00 and 5:00 a.m. and a delay of at least one hour at the destination station is foreseeable, Regioticket holders can also travel to their destination by another means of transport, such as a taxi. This is also possible if it is the last scheduled connection of the day, it is cancelled and you can no longer arrive at the destination station by 24.00 o'clock without other means of transport.

For these two cases, the EVO, which has also been revised, provides for a maximum refundable amount of 120 euros in the future, up from 80 euros so far. The new EVO will come into force on 7 June, parallel to the new EU regulation.

Where to put the complaint?

According to the EU regulation, every major railway company and every major station with an annual average of more than 10,000 passengers per day must set up procedures for handling complaints. At Deutsche Bahn, the complaint for tickets purchased via a customer account can be initiated online on "" or in the "DB Navigator" app.

Or: You fill out a passenger rights form and send it by post to the Service Center for Passenger Rights in 60647 Frankfurt/Main. In some cases, compensation can also be obtained directly from the DB Travel Centre. (dpa, lf)

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-06-07

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