Consumer FAQ relating to coronavirus crisis

Consumers are encouraged to act primarily with respect to their own health and the health of others at the time of this extraordinary situation. We recommend that you postpone the handling of issues that are not strictly necessary until the situation calms down and entrepreneurs return to their normal mode. When exercising their rights at a time of emergency, participants to the contractual relationship should treat each other respectfully, with patience and taking into account the emergency situation in which the other party may be located. Bullying exercise of law or other practices contrary to good morals don’t fall under the protection of law, such conduct does not have legal effects.

In connection with covid-19 disease and declared crisis measures, we recommend that you follow the website of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, the Ministry of Health and individual general state administration bodies. Please note that the supervision of compliance with crisis measures and their interpretation don‘t fall within the scope of the Czech Trade Inspection Authority. In general, in the case of questions or complaints concerning the crisis measures, we recommend you to contact the authorities that imposed the measures. We recommend that entrepreneurs follow the website of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Consumers are encouraged to act primarily with respect to their own health and the health of others at the time of this extraordinary situation. We recommend that you postpone the handling of issues that are not strictly necessary until the situation calms down and entrepreneurs return to their normal mode.

When exercising their rights at a time of emergency, participants to the contractual relationship should treat each other respectfully, with patience and taking into account the emergency situation in which the other party may be located. Bullying exercise of law or other practices contrary to good morals don’t fall under the protection of law, such conduct does not have legal effects.

Package travel and tourism related issues

Foreign tours from the Czech Republic

At present, according to the declared crisis measures of the Government of the Czech Republic, it isn‘t possible to cross the national borders unless any of the conditions for exceptions is met. Foreign package travels departing from the Czech Republic cannot take place until the change or cancellation of the crisis measures. For this reason, tour operators should cancel the tours in question and return the full price paid to customers without cancellation fees. If the travel agent does not cancel the trip themselves, the customer may also withdraw from the contract under the Section 2535 of the Civil Code. In this case, the customer has the right to refund the price of the trip without cancellation fees, unless he agrees with the tour operator on a different solution, e.g. to shift the date or issue a voucher for further use.

For package travel that were to take place before the effectiveness of the crisis measure consisting of the travel ban, in our opinion, if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised not to travel to the respective destination, e.g. because of a threat to life or health, the customer is entitled to withdraw from the contract without any payment of cancellation fees, since the terms of Section 2535 of the Civil Code are met in such a case. Current recommendations for trips abroad are published on the www.mzv.cz  website. Although the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not a legally binding decision and only the court can decide bindingly whether the conditions for the possibility of free withdrawal from the tour agreement have been fulfilled, we believe that the decision-making practice of the courts will take these recommendations into consideration.

Any withdrawal from the contract is recommended in a demonstrable form, e.g. in the form of a registered letter sent to the travel agency. Such letter should show the consumer’s intention to withdraw from the contract and the contract from which the consumer withdraws should be sufficiently identified (i.e. the contracting party designation, contract number, the date of the package travel, etc.).

Package travel with departure in another country

In the case where a Czech consumer purchased a package travel from a foreign tour operator and the place of departure isn’t in the Czech Republic, the travel contract usually wouldn’t be governed by Czech law, but by the law of the state of the registered office of the tour operator. The impossibility of travelling to the place of boarding for a trip due to extraordinary measures taken in the Czech Republic would usually not be at the risk of the tour operator, because the journey to the place of departure of the trip is carried out separately by the customer at their own risk.

A possibility of withdrawing from the contract due to extraordinary circumstances shall be based on the situation at the place of the agreed departure for the trip, routes of travel and the final destination. From this perspective, the situation in the Czech Republic wouldn’t usually be relevant to such contract. In the Member States of the European Union, the possibility of withdrawal in extraordinary circumstances applies to the rules similar to those in the Czech Republic under the applicable Directive of the European Union. In cases of questions, consumers are encouraged to contact the European Consumer Centre in their home country.

Health problems on holiday

In the event that a customer finds themselves in difficulty in connection with a disease or a protective health measure, the tour operator is obliged to provide assistance to them free of charge, in particular to inform them about health services, local authorities and consular assistance, assistance in distance communication and finding an alternative travel solution. If, as a result of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances, it is not possible to ensure the return of the customer to their home country as agreed in the contract, the tour operator in most cases bears the costs of the necessary accommodation, but not more than three nights per customer. This restriction doesn‘t apply to certain categories of persons who, due to health restrictions, require special care.

Individually purchased flight tickets, bus tickets, train tickets and accommodation abroad

Where the flight is cancelled in connection with extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 disease or accompanying epidemiological measures, passengers may request a refund of the ticket price or, where appropriate, to be re-routed to an alternative service, depending on the availability of seats and the possibility of entering a particular national territory. In the case of re-routing, passengers are entitled to necessary care, which usually includes refreshments for the necessary time period as well as accommodation. Passengers cannot claim compensation against carriers in the event of cancelled flights due to extraordinary circumstances. If the flight is not cancelled and the passenger is not allowed to board in the consequence of the current restrictive measures taken by a number of states, it may be possible to request re-routing to an alternative flight after the restrictive measures end. A number of airlines currently offer free departure changes or cancellations. We recommend that you check the website of the relevant carrier. Due to the overload of customer centres in connection with the high number of cancelled flights, it can be recommended that passengers now contact the carrier by phone only in the event of a scheduled departure within the next few days.

International bus and train services from the Czech Republic have been suspended in connection with crisis measures. In the event of a cancellation of the connection, the passengers may be entitled to a refund of the fare. The time limit for settling the exercised law under the contract of carriage is 3 months.

In the case of individually booked accommodation abroad, the possibility of withdrawal is generally governed by the law of the particular state in which the accommodation facility is located. Crisis measures in the Czech Republic will usually not be a sufficient reason for a withdrawal and refund of the price paid for non-refundable bookings. A number of landlords and booking portals have declared special conditions in connection with the pandemic situation. We recommend you to ask for information about cancellation options from the accommodation facility operator or booking portal.

When can the CTIA help the consumer

Although the customer has the right to withdraw from the contract before the start of the package travel without paying any cancellation fee, if there are unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances at the destination of the trip or residence or its immediate surroundings which have a significant impact on the provision of the trip or on the carriage of persons to the destination of the trip or residence if it is not allowed and if the tour operator doesn‘t return all payments paid for the trip, the inspection authority has no power to force the seller to return the money in the course of the inspection activity, but consumers can turn to the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes (ADR). But if there is no agreement between the two parties within mediation, the consumer would have to sue for his or her rights.

 

Other questions relating to consumer rights in the time of emergency

 

Services that cannot be provided at the time of emergency

Based on crisis measures, a number of prohibitions and restrictions apply in the field of cultural, sports and other events and in the operation of retail.

In the event that, on the basis of a crisis measure, it is not possible to fulfil the contract in a timely manner, it is an intervention of the so-called force majeure. Such situations may be, for example, the following:

  • Purchase of a theatre ticket that has been cancelled;
  • Reservation of a book in a library that is closed;
  • Purchase a tasting menu in a restaurant that is not in operation;
  • Prepayment of fitness-coach service in a gym for the time when the gym is closed, etc.

 

In this case, the contracting party that defaults on the fulfilment of the obligation (e.g. theatre, restaurant, coach) shall not be held liable for damage caused to the other party as a result of the delay (e.g. damage to an unused paid hotel stay or train ticket, acquired in relation to a planned visit to the theatre in a foreign town, or a dinner purchased instead of a cancelled tasting menu, etc.)

In the event of a delay, the right of a contracting party which is not in default is generally maintained to withdraw from the contract after the additional period to fulfil the obligation passes and to seek the repayment of the already paid performance.

When exercising their rights at a time of emergency, participants in the contractual relationship should treat each other respectfully, with patience and taking into account the emergency situation in which the other party may find themselves. Bullying exercise of law or other practice contrary to good morals isn’t covered by any legal protection, such conduct doesn‘t have legal effects.

 

Making a claim in the time of emergency

Consumers are encouraged to act primarily in terms of their own health and the health of others at a time of emergency. We recommend that you postpone the handling of matters that are not strictly necessary until the situation returns where entrepreneurs return to their normal mode.

Crisis measures do not specifically regulate the issue of the application and handling of complaints. In exercising their rights at a time of emergency, participants in the contractual relationship should treat each other respectfully, with patience and taking into account the emergency situation in which the other party may find themselves, e.g. in connection with forced closure, lack of staff who have to baby-sit at home, are quarantined, etc.  E.g. the bullying insisting on the settlement of claims of consumer goods which is not indispensable, within normal time limits and withdrawal from the contract, if, due to a state of emergency, the claim could not be settled, the nature of such conduct may be contrary to good manners to which no legal protection is granted.

Bullying exercise of law or other practice contrary to good morals isn’t covered by any legal protection, such conduct doesn‘t have legal effects.

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