Daimler, MAN, Volvo/Renault, DAF, Iveco and Scania are facing billion-dollar damages claims from carriers for illegal price fixing. To date, more than 7,000 transport companies from 26 countries have filed over 300 claims in excess of €1 billion in the German courts. However, the spillover effects on the transport sector remain unclear. A recent Dortmund Regional Court decision provides much-needed clarity in this regard.
In May 2018 the Aviation Working Group announced plans for a global aircraft trading system (GATS) to modernise the selling, buying and financing of leased aircraft and engines by making such transactions simpler and faster. The GATS will be fully electronic and use e-signatures, e-delivery of documents and a secure e-ledger to record transactions. As such, it is expected to reduce the time and costs required to change German aircraft registrations through the national aviation authority.
If a third-country aircraft owner terminates the lease of a German airline but wants to keep the aircraft registered in Germany, it must enter into a new lease or similar agreement with an entity from an EU member state for at least six months. This article discusses why aircraft lessors and owners should carefully consider the requirements for keeping an aircraft in the German aircraft registry, particularly if its lease has been terminated.
A hard Brexit would increase liability risk for EU carriers and freight forwarders, and disputing parties would need to overcome a number of factual and legal hurdles. Before undertaking cross-border transports, carriers are well advised to make clear agreements with senders in order to clarify that customs clearance delays are expected for an unforeseeable duration and request instructions from senders in accordance with the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled that the complete failure of an airport computer system may be considered an extraordinary circumstance. The court affirmed that airport system failures caused by technical defects which affect or suspend the functioning of technical equipment over a prolonged period are an external event affecting air carrier flight operations. Further, the monitoring, maintenance and repair of an airport's technical facilities lie outside the responsibility and competence of air carriers.
The Federal Court of Justice recently held that a strike is considered an extraordinary circumstance pursuant to the EU Flight Delay Compensation Regulation only if its consequences cannot be averted by reasonable measures and make flight cancellation legally and actually necessary. This decision emphasises that determining whether airlines can avoid liability due to extraordinary circumstances must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) are a joint body of recommendations for shipping industry associations and freight forwarders. However, given that there are (at least) three versions – namely, ADSp 2003, ADSp 2016 and ADSp 2017 – many companies struggle to clearly identify the ADSp on which they should base their services.
A recent Bremen Regional Court decision serves as a stark reminder to carriers that all contractual obligations, particularly those relating to security instructions, must be fulfilled and that any carrier found to have breached these obligations could face unrestricted liability in the event of damages. Carriers should carefully assess the feasibility of implementing any listed safety instructions before accepting transport contracts.
The Koblenz Higher Regional Court recently confirmed that tour operators cannot be held liable by cruise passengers for gym injuries sustained during large swells. The decision re-emphasises the fact that ships shift constantly at sea and that all passengers should therefore take appropriate care while on board – particularly during large swells – as failure to do so may deny them the ability to claim damages if an accident occurs.
The Verden Regional Court recently sentenced a forwarder to pay full compensation plus interest calculated at nine percentage points above the basic lending rate under the Civil Code. Upholding the forwarder's appeal, the Celle Higher Regional Court held that the interest rate should be reduced to five percentage points above the basic lending rate, which is more in line with interest claims under the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road.
The Hamburg Local Court recently dismissed a passenger's claim for damages based on denied boarding after the delay of a previous flight which had been operated by a code-share partner. The court was of the opinion that a code-share partner is not liable for every further disruption along the course of transportation. Rather, the right to claim damages requires an adequate causal link between the delay and the further disruption.
Following Bavaria's state elections in October 2018, the legally binding plans to build a third runway at Munich Airport incurred significant delays. The state authorities recently agreed that the project will be suspended for five years, despite the fact that demand for aviation services in Munich – and internationally – continues to rise. The decision is a further example of how Germany's aviation industry will face additional, severe obstacles and challenges over the coming years.
The European Parliament and Council recently revised and replaced the basic regulation on common rules in the field of civil aviation. The new basic regulation promises a number of significant changes to the German aviation landscape over the next five years. Among other revisions, the Federal Aviation Office could lose some of its control over certain tasks relating to air operator certification, oversight and enforcement.
The State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia recently decided to launch an airline passenger rights app. The new app is intended to promote consumer protection and help passengers to claim compensation easily via their mobile phones. It will be developed by the consumer advice centre and is expected to inform passengers of their rights, perform claim checks, offer suggestions on how and where to assert claims and actively support the process of claiming compensation.
While settling claims out of court to avoid losing customers is becoming standard practice in the shipping and transport industry, such payments should not be made prematurely – particularly if the carrier's responsibility for the damage is unclear. In most cases, the opposing party interprets such goodwill payments as an acknowledgement of debt at a later stage in the proceedings. Therefore, carriers are advised to draw up a brief compensation declaration to avoid having to compensate twice.
The Hamburg Regional Court recently referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the question of which air carrier is the operating air carrier within the meaning of EU Regulation 261/2004 where the flight is operated under a wet lease agreement. The ECJ confirmed that air carriers which lease aircraft and crew to other air carriers under a wet lease agreement but bear no operational responsibility for the flights are not covered by the concept of 'operating air carrier' within the meaning of the regulation.
The Federal Court of Justice recently denied a claim for compensation regarding costs relating to the duty of German airlines to carry sky marshals, who are entrusted with the security of certain flights based on specific security considerations and by decree of the federal police. While the court's argument was legally stringent, it lacked sustainable reasoning as to why airline cost and security obligations should be more important than those of other transport means or sectors.
In its capacity as a court for inland navigation, the Mannheim District Court recently settled a dispute between an inland waterway carrier and a sender. The sender had instructed the carrier on short notice and despite the express statement by the carrier that its vessel was not yet available. According to the court's interpretation of the transport contract, the flexibility agreed in respect of loading readiness was to be understood as an exemption of liability for late delivery.
The Federal Court of Justice recently clarified a number of issues under the Budapest Convention on the Contract for the Carriage of Goods by Inland Waterway – most importantly, the determination (calculation) of the limitation per weight of goods. According to the court, only the weight specified in the transport document can be invoked; if no weight is mentioned in the transport document, the carrier must rely on the limitation per package.
The German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) 2017 are designed to protect forwarders and close any potential liability risk gaps, particularly for organisations involved in air transport. In order to clarify the issue of whether the ADSp 2003 applied only to transport that was governed by German law, the updated ADSp stipulate that they do not apply to international transport.