- Several holidaymakers are currently waiting to get the money back for their vacation canceled due to the corona pandemic.
- The airlines, tour operators and booking portals are overwhelmed with the mass of inquiries, customers sometimes only have to wait weeks for the first contact.
- Legal-Tech startup RightNow buys travelers’ rights and enforces their claims in court if necessary. They are currently offering a free “Corona Special”.
Numerous holidaymakers worldwide have to do without their spring or summer vacation this year due to the corona pandemic. Many countries have closed their borders to visitors and most airlines have largely stopped operating. Travelers are now trying to get their money back for planned and paid vacations, but that is not so easy. Mediation portals and travel providers are overwhelmed with the overwhelming number of inquiries and cancellations and can hardly keep up.
For many consumers, enforcing compensation claims alone is almost impossible. The young legal-tech startup RightNow buys the claims from vacationers and then enforces them legally. If successful, the customer gets the money back and RightNow keeps a small part of the compensation as a commission. If the process fails, the customer does not have to pay anything. This is called Consumer Claims Purchasing. The young company from Düsseldorf offers this for flight cancellations, flight delays and vacation packages, as well as for train delays, vehicle damage and incidental rental costs.
The advantage for consumers: on the one hand, they don’t have to worry about anything, on the other hand they don’t have to pay high legal costs. The rights purchaser does that. The check in the online tools of the providers is usually free and usually spits out immediately whether you are entitled to compensation or not.
Only 3 percent have already received money back
According to the European Passenger Rights Regulation (No. 261/2004), tour operators and airlines must reimburse the costs for package tours within 14 days and for flight cancellations within 7 days. The travel companies do not currently meet this period.
This shows a new survey of the legal tech start-up among 1,000 of its customers. The results give travelers little hope of enforcing their claims on the providers alone: only one in ten prospects of repayment and only three percent have so far actually received money back. 40 percent of all respondents have been waiting four or more weeks in vain for an initial response from their travel provider.
“The current mood in the travel market is alarming because uncertainty and anger are spreading and we want to fight against it as RightNow,” says Benedikt Quarch, co-founder & managing director of the RightNow Group. RightNow therefore offers its service as a “Corona Special” free of charge in the current exceptional situation if you submit your case by April 30th. After that, a fee of ten percent of the compensation amount will be charged.
Does rebooking make sense?
Many travelers are currently wondering whether they should claim the money back at all or whether they should be rebooked. Because many providers are currently aggressively advertising with supposedly attractive rebooking options to secure the urgently needed liquidity. “However, what is often only in the small print: only the rebooking fee does not apply. This means that the air travelers can often not ‘simply’ book another trip in the future, but always pay the price difference on top, ”explains Phillip Eischet, co-founder and managing director of the RightNow Group.
In concrete terms, this means for holidaymakers: if the trip cost around 1,200 euros in March and would now cost 1,600 euros if you rebooked in August, the customer will have to bear the 400 euros difference themselves. It is currently still very uncertain whether the trip can really take place in August. “The safest option is therefore to request the full travel price now and book it again at a later date,” advises Eischet.
In principle, European passengers have been particularly protected since 2004 by EU Regulation 261/2004. The regulation states that European air travelers are entitled to claims of between 250 and 600 euros in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or long flight delays. However, this additional compensation does not apply to Corona as the pandemic is considered exceptional. However, travelers are entitled to reimbursement of the ticket or travel price.
How long will it take to get my money back?
However, it can currently take longer for you to get your money back through a consumer portal like RightNow. “The enforcement period is difficult to predict, especially in corona times. While it will certainly work for some airlines in a few weeks, it will probably take significantly longer, especially for the low-cost carriers, ”says Phillip Eischet. At the same time, it is significantly faster than if you try it yourself.
RightNow is not the only provider to buy and enforce travel rights. Flightright is one of the larger providers in the German market, but the company only specializes in flights and tickets. With this provider, the service is free if the ticket is refunded within seven days. If the workload is greater and it takes longer, Flightright’s commission is 14 percent.
RightNow should put pressure on the competitor with its low prices. The startup was founded in 2017 by Phillip Eischet, Benedikt Quarch and Torben Antretter and has already been able to raise over 25 million euros in funding from investors such as Trivago’s founders and Carsten Maschmeyer.
It was only in March that Stiftung Warentest tested various passenger portals such as Flightright. However, the young company RightNow was not yet there. Compensation2go was the best provider. The testers saw a need for improvement in many portals, especially in the transparency of prices, often not including VAT.