In 2016 Ryanair changed their Standard Terms of Carriage to include a condition regarding claims brought under EU261/2004. This restricted the ability of passengers to go to third party companies for assistance until they had made a claim directly to the airline and waited 28 days for them to respond. Only at this time could the passengers seek professional assistance with their claim. In our view the aim of the clause was to disrupt the business model used by Claim Companies and Solicitors who assist passengers on a “No Win No Fee” basis
Claims Companies and Solicitors who were approached for assistance had to direct their clients to firstly make a claim themselves. This led to many clients giving up or those that persisted giving up once Ryanair declined their claim. It must be noted that the majority of Court actions against airlines under EU261/2004 are successful, demonstrating that often airlines wrongly turn down claims. This area of the law is complicated and professional assistance greatly enhances the passengers’ chances of success.
Air Passenger Solicitors offer:
– Ready Access to the Court System
– Expert legal knowledge
– Weather databases
– Database to check flight times
– Distance checking
– Records covering known exceptions
– Database of relevant Court decisions.
The Appeal Court Ruling
Bott & Co (Solicitors) argued that they had an equitable lien over the payment. This would mean that Ryanair would have to settle via the Solicitor who could deduct their fees. Following the decline of Legal Aid such arrangements have been encouraged to allow greater access to justice. The sums of compensation are relatively small, a typical payment being Eur 400 (£348). Few passengers would pay court costs to secure such a small payment in addition to completing lengthy forms and statements plus potentially attending Court. Solicitors would be loathed to take on such work if the compensation went directly to the client leaving the Solicitor to chase their customer for payment.
The Court of Appeal found that there is no lien where the Solicitor only entered into negotiations there must be some form of proceedings i.e. litigation or arbitration. The Court also found that the services provided by Bott & Co were generally not litigation services and so no lien arose.
The Solicitors Bott & Co also claimed that Clause 15 of Ryanair’s Standard Terms of Carriage amounted to a waiver or limitation of the passengers rights under Article 15 of the regulation. The Court of Appeal found that using the Airline’s portal did not put an obstacle in the way of passengers seeking compensation. However, this does not take into account those without basic IT skills or the more complicated claims. Or simply those customers who prefer to have help with such matters.
Ryanair say in Court that they want their passengers to receive 100% of the compensation yet many passengers are driven to seek help from solicitors as their experience is that Ryanair do not readily pay.
Ask yourself this question: Is the largest carrier in Europe insisting that all its delayed passengers be they Dutch, Spanish, German or any other nationality must issue any claim for compensation through a tiny court in Swords Dublin designed to stifle and delay claims or afford ready access to redress. It is plainly a barrier to recovery.
It is in the interest of every passenger to be able to seek assistance when they wish. If solicitors are concerned that they will not be paid they will not offer such a service on a “No Win No Fee” basis which will prevent access to justice.
CAA advised airlines to join alternative dispute schemes so that passengers have easy access to further their claim when they feel that they have not been fairly treated. Ryanair has pulled out of this scheme operated by Aviation ADR. In the first 11 months of 2018 when ADR handled such claims they awarded £2.6 million to passengers covering 14,000 claims. The fee for handling such claims was (£75 x 14,000) £1,050,000. Ryanair has therefore saved £3,650,000 by pulling out of the scheme. CEDR operate a similar scheme. Without ADR, new claims have little hope of being resolved when solicitors face the real possibility of not being paid under a “No Win No Fee” basis.
The Supreme Court itself has granted leave to appeal the Court of Appeal decision and will hear this matter on 27th October 2020.
Ryanair alters its Standard Terms of Carriage In January 2020 Ryanair published revised “General Terms and Conditions of Carriage”. In these new terms they no longer insist that Irish Courts have exclusive jurisdiction BUT only where a passenger has complied with Article 15.2.1 to 15.2.7 (i.e. contacted Ryanair on a direct basis). In these new terms they reduce their response time to a claim from 28 days to 14 days and so long as the passenger made a claim directly and Ryanair has either failed to respond or the passenger is unhappy with their reply Ryanair agree that third parties may be engaged to claim/receive payment on the passengers behalf. No doubt Ryanair has been advised that their best chance of avoiding a ruling that Clause 15 is in breach of Article 15 of the Regulation EU261/2004 is to water it down their contractual terms significantly. We feel that Ryanair also expect the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals decision and are now agreeing to pay Solicitors directly once they have been engaged even if no proceedings have been issued. The tactic of Ryanair of requiring all court action to be through a tiny court in Swords Dublin will have saved Ryanair millions of Euros. Their insistence of only paying the passenger was designed to discourage Solicitors from helping passengers. Now some obstacles have been removed but what remains is the requirement of the passenger to submit a claim directly to Ryanair and allow them 14 days to respond.
Give us your Ryanair Claim
Lord Justice Lewison said in the court of Appeal
“If a passenger needs help in filling in the on-line form there is nothing to prevent that. On the contrary Clause 15.2.7 permits it. All the passenger has to do is to press the send button. And even that could be done by a third party…..”
Our approach is to ask you the passenger to e-sign and send a letter to Ryanair. This is produced for you under your instructions and posted on your behalf. E-sign sounds complicated but this is achieved through our terms and conditions where a sample letter is agreed at the outset. We can comply with the Ryanair contractual conditions without the need to contact you after you have agreed our terms of business. After 14 days we will check back with you and if you have had no response we can then complete the claim. In this way we can handle the claim from start to finish. The bad old days of Ryanair avoiding valid claims have finished.
Please contact us today via our website or by emailing Paul@airpassengersolicitors.com
Since Ryanair won this case in the Court of Appeal, British Airways, VirginAtlantic, easyJet, Tui, Emirates and many others have adopted clauses identical to Clause 15 used by Ryanair. This means that the airline industry will no doubt await the appeal and adjust their Standard Terms of Trade accordingly.
We also hope that the Law Society become involved in what will be a key case for solicitors rights and those of passengers requiring access to Justice.
We commend Bott & Co’s fight to have this ruling overturned and allow access to justice and look forward to greater passenger justice on 27th October 2020.