The Ruling Committee in Travel Industry Matters is a joint project of the Consumers’ Association (NS) and the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF). Among SAF’s members are airlines, travel agencies, car rentals, hotels, restaurants and recreational service providers. The committee operates in accordance with an agreement between these two parties and rules on consumer disputes with members of SAF. Usually the concerning parties have tried to reach an agreement before a case is put before the committee, and in fact a condition for submitting a case is to have first complained in writing to the trader. The cost of submitting a case is 3.500 ISK. The committee consists of three representatives; a chairman appointed by the government, one from SAF and one from NS. As the committee works according to an agreement with SAF members are generally obliged to follow its rulings.
Since this committee is a very important resource for both Icelandic consumers and foreign travellers, ECC Iceland decided to take a closer look at its operations. Further information on the committee, its rulings and all data used for the purpose of this overview, is available in Icelandic on www.ns.is
Number of cases before the committee
From 2010 to 2014 a total of 21 cases were submitted before the committee, but in two of those disputes an agreement was reached before a ruling was made. Compared to the 5-600 cases the Consumers´ Association receives every year and the number of travel related complaints ECC Iceland receives the number is therefore relatively low. However in early December the cases in 2015 were already 8 so 2015 will be a rather busy year for the committee. The reasons for the relatively few cases are several, amongst them is the fact that both the Consumers´ Association and ECC Iceland aim to solve all disputes with mediation so in most cases it is simply not necessary to turn to the committee. And then of course not quite all tourism companies are members of SAF. Even though the number of cases every year is not great, ECC Iceland considers this committee highly important for consumers, both native and foreign, who would otherwise have to take their case to the court system. The committee also provides important precedents for traders.
What is the complaint about?
Most commonly consumers complained about package tours, and in seven cases disputes concerned accommodation, that was below expectations, not as advertised or promised in the contract. Complaints about flight delays and cancellations rank equally high in the list of complaints. In two cases the disputes were about damage to rental cars and in both cases the consumers were foreign nationals that turned to the committee with the aid of ECC Iceland. In the remaining cases the parties disagreed about the price, terms and conditions of a package tour.
The rulings of the committee
As stated before two disputes were resolved by the disputing parties themselves. In the remaining 19 cases the consumer´s demands were met, either fully or partly. The most common result, especially in cases where the committee finds that accommodation was unacceptable, is that the consumers’ demands are partly met and compensation is awarded accordingly. However consumers should always bear in mind that even if accommodation is not quite up to scratch it is far more likely that the awarded discount, even if the committee agrees that a claim is well founded, will be relatively low. This can come as a great disappointment to consumers who demand full reimbursement due to some fault with the hotel. So people in such situations should always try to enjoy their holiday as best they can as a full reimbursement is quite unlikely!
The Ruling Committee in Travel Industry Matters is housed by the Consumers’ Association of Iceland, where consumers can go if they need to submit a case. For foreign consumers not living in Iceland, more information on the committee and how to submit a case is available in email (firstname.lastname@example.org for the Consumers’ Association of Iceland; email@example.com for ECC Iceland) or by phone (+354 545 1200).