Sunday, 3 April 2016

CJEU clarifies procedural issues on enforcement of Regulation 261/2004 on passenger rights

Two recent judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) have clarified some important procedural aspects on the enforcement of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 on passenger rights in cases of long delays, cancellation of flights and denied boarding. The first judgment concerned the role of national enforcement bodies under the Regulation 261/2004. The second one related to questions of international jurisdiction and applicable procedural rules in case of a European payment issued for claims arising out of the Regulation.

In the first judgment, the Court clarified the duties of national enforcement bodies established under Art. 16 of Regulation 261/2004. According to the Court, these bodies have a duty to ensure general compliance of the air carriers with the Regulation. They are not required to act on individual complaints of passengers to guarantee each individual passenger’s right to obtain compensation. Nevertheless, Member States may empower such bodies to adopt measures in response to individual complaints, in order to remedy inadequate protection for air passengers.

The second judgment concerned a European payment order issued under Regulation 1896/2006, which foresees a simplified procedure for cross-border recovery of uncontested claims. Such procedure is interrupted, if the defendant/debtor files a statement of opposition against the payment order issued against him/her, within 30 days from the date of service of the payment order. The CJEU clarified that the international jurisdiction of the court that issued the European payment order for a claim under Reg. 261/2004 will not be judged according to the jurisdictional rules of the 1999 Montreal Convention on the liability of international air carriers, as the Convention is inapplicable to such claims. Applicable will be the jurisdictional rules of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (which in the meantime has been repealed by Regulation No 1215/2012, yet the content of its provisions has been largely maintained).  In the course of such examination, the procedure will be governed by national rules (lex fori). Nevertheless, such procedural rules should safeguard the effectiveness of Regulation No 44/2001, mainly in the sense that the defendant’s rights are not impaired. If the national court concludes that the courts of its State have international jurisdiction to hear the opposition claims of the defendant, then the details on which court exactly of that State is competent, i.e. subject-matter jurisdiction (ratione materiae) and territorial jurisdiction (ratione loci), should be determined according to the rules of Regulation 44/2001. If the national court concludes that the courts of its State lack international jurisdiction on the case, then it has not the right to review the case on its own motion by analogy to Art. 20 of Reg. 1896/2006, which provides for such review in case the defendant has missed the deadline for filing an opposition statement.   

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