Since 2010, there has existed an European Regulation which gives rights to Ferry Passengers. This Regulation sets out the key principles and rights that should be offered to Ferry Passengers and reflect in some way similar rights offered to Air Passengers. The Rights are designed to import a greater confidence & quality into the ferry product and to ensure that there is a level playing field in the application of Consumer Rights.
The scenes of blocked ports and the somewhat hysterical reporting of events failed to offer solace to ferry passengers and present a ray of hope that there really was no need to sit in a queue for hours on end!
So, if you were one of those caught up in the recent Calais/Dover blockage and you didn't receive any rights, or, if in the event that there are further strikes or port blockages, then the following will equip you to present those rights and smooth your onward journey!
The key instrument is EU Regulation 1177/2010. This Regulation applies both to Ferries & Ports.
The Regulation sets out in great detail issues relating to disability rights; a right to travel, the right to assistance, the right to have disability equipment replaced along with the central rights covering delay, cancellation and re-routing!
I shall summarise these latter rights as follows!
- Article 16 concerns information that must be given to you. In the event that there is a delay or cancellation, you must be informed as soon as possible and no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure of the Ferry. You must also be given the estimated time of departure and when you are expected to arrive at your destination. If you miss connections, they must also inform you of alternative connections. In addition, particular attention must be paid to disabled persons and how this information must be shared with them according to their needs;
- Article 17 concerns the assistance you should be given in the event that your Ferry is Delayed or Cancelled. If you are to suffer a delay or cancellation for more than 90 minutes after the scheduled departure time, then you are entitled to refreshments if they are available or if they can reasonably be supplied. If your delay or cancellation extends to one night or more, then you must be offered 'where and when physically possible', accommodation on-board the Ferry or accommodation on-shore. If an overnight stay is required, then you must be provided with refreshments again if available or if they can reasonably be supplied, transport to/from your hotel acommodation. With the exception of transport to/from hotels, they can limit the cost of accommodation per passenger to €80 per night for a maximum of 3 nights. Again, the needs of disabled passengers must be catered for!
- Article 18 deals with re-routing and reimbursement if you have been delayed or cancelled. If it is reasonably expected that you will be delayed or cancelled for more than 90 minutes beyond your scheduled time of departure, then you have to be given 2 choices:
- Re-routing to your final destination 'under comparable conditions' at the 'earliest opportunity' and at 'no additional cost'!
- The second choice you should be offered is Re-imbursement of the ticket price and where relevant 'a return service free of charge' to your initial point of departure at the 'earliest opportunity'.
- Re-routing or Re-imbursement shall be given at the level of the ticket price from the carrier or Ferry company;
- Payment of any monies due under Re-imbursement must be done within 7 days of the agreement;
- Consumers can accept payment of monies due via vouchers and/or other services, provided there is no limitation on validity or destination - such an offer must be flexible!
- Article 19 deals with compensation if you have been delayed in arriving at your destination. The formula is complicated but the minimum compensation payable is 25% of your ticket price for that leg of the journey. Compensation is caculated by the length of the delay versus the scheduled period of the journey. So, you can receive compensation for:
- 1 hour delay against a journey of up to 4 hours;
- 2 hour delay against a journey of over 4 hours and up to 8 hours;
- 3 hour delay against a journey of more than 8 hours and up to 24 hours, or
- 6 hours delay against a journey of more than 24 hours.
- If the delays experienced are doubled these times, then you can claim 50% of the cost of your ticket;
- Season ticket holders may claim compensation 'in accordance with the carrier's compensation arangements';
- Compensation must be paid within 1 month;
- Consumers can accept vouchers and/or other services provided there are no limitations on such an offer and that the arrangements are flexible;
- Compensation cannot be reduced by admin costs - they can introduce a threshold below which they do not have to pay compensation, but that threshold must not exceed €6!
- Article 20 provides exemptions to the above articles:
- If you have an open ticket with no specified time of departure (season ticket holders/travel pass holders excepted), you cannot claim under Articles 17, 18 & 19;
- Articles 17 & 19 will not apply if you were told that the Ferry was going to be delayed or cancelled before you bought the ticket or if the delay or cancellation was caused by the passenger;
- If weather conditions are deemed to affect the safe operation of the ship, then the provisions under Article 17(2) will not apply - these are where accommodation has to be provided and so on!
- Your request for compensation may be denied under Article 19 if 'the carrier proves that the cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship or by extraordinary circumstances* hindering the performance of the passenger service which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken'.
- Article 23 sets out how information should be made available at Ferry Ports or on-board ships. They must pay particular heed to the needs of disabled persons and they must also provide the contact details of the National Enforcement Body who oversee the operation of these Regulations;
- Article 24 sets out how complaints should be dealt with. Ferry and Port Operators have to have in place a complaints handling 'mechanism'. You have to submit your complaint within 2 months of the service or event you are complaining of. Within 1 month they have to respond telling you whether your complaint is 'substantiated, rejected or is still being considered'. The time to provide you with the final reply to your complaint must not be more than 2 months!
As you can see, these present substantial rights to you as a Consumer and we would urge you to save this article in your favourites and take it with you next time you travel on a Ferry!
* - Note this phrase 'Extraordinary Circumstances' has been used, debated and argued over in the Courts on Air Passengers Rights - I expect that through the passage of time a similar experience will follow for Ferry Passengers. If this is a point you get stuck on, then just e mail us or call our helpline and we will guide you further.