Don’t force KLM passengers to accept vouchers: Consumer group to gov’t

A KLM plane at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Photo: David.gaya / Wikimedia Commons)A KLM plane at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Photo: David.gaya / Wikimedia Commons)

Consumers' association Consumentenbond is calling on the Dutch government to stop forcing consumers to accept vouchers for their canceled flights. According to the association, this is both against European law and does major damage to consumer confidence.

The government undermined consumer rights by "actively calling on the aviation regulator not to intervene if airlines violate the law", Consumentenbond said in a statement. "Because that is what Minister [Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure] did when she instructed the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate to 'refrain from enforcement in the issuance of vouchers by airlines with flight cancellations due to Covid-19'."

According to European law, consumers have the right to a refund. Now they have to settle for a voucher, and a voucher that is not guaranteed against the airline going bankrupt, the consumers organization said. Since the Minister's call, "various airlines refuse to refund the money by default and only offer a voucher," the association said. "Securities that existed when consumers decided to purchase their tickets are undone with a simple stroke of the pen."

According to Consumentenbond, the government is quick to jump to companies' aid - KLM alone can count on an aid package of between 2 billion and 4 billion euros. "But consumers are left out in the cold."

The association pointed out that consumer spending is responsible for about a third of the Dutch economy. "The degree to which we are willing to consume stands or falls with confidence." On April 22nd, Statistics Netherlands recorded the biggest decline in consumer confidence in Dutch history. And budget institute Nibud reports that a fifth of Dutch people now have less income than before the coronavirus crisis.

Consumentenbond calls on the government not to wait for Europe, but to look for a way to at least guarantee airline vouchers against bankruptcy itself. The association also wants to add a condition to financial support for companies - "respect the legal agreements with your customers, otherwise you won't get support".