Germany: Deutsche Bahn to simplify ticket refund process, eventually | News | DW | 16.03.2019
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Germany: Deutsche Bahn to simplify ticket refund process, eventually

Train passengers in Germany looking for compensation after a train delay face a cumbersome process with complicated forms and strict conditions. Deutsche Bahn wants to change that process — but it'll take a while.

Deutsche Bahn wants to establish a digital service to make it easier for its passengers to receive refunds for train delays.

A spokesman for Germany's state-owned train company told the DPA news agency that it wants customers to be able to apply for compensation digitally. What the digital platform will be and when it will be available is still unclear.

Under the current system, passengers receive a 25 percent refund if their train arrives an hour late and a 50 percent refund if their train arrives two hours late. However, they can only receive the compensation after completing a form and either handing it in at a travel center or mailing it to the Passenger Rights Service Center in Frankfurt.

Read more: Why Germans love to complain about trains

"It is understandable that the current compensation process is no longer perceived as up-to-date by our customers and they want simple solutions," the spokesman told DPA. "However, the digitalization of passenger rights is both functionally and technically complex and therefore requires some time."

Incentive to be on time?

For years, consumer advocates have been calling for customers to be able to apply for compensation online.

German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer has advocated for automatic refunds for passengers of both trains and planes when their travel is delayed or canceled. 

"We need to strengthen passenger rights — not only in rail transport but also air transport. That would be an incentive for more punctuality," Scheuer told RND, a Hanover-based media network, adding that he was discussing automatic compensation with Germany's Justice Ministry.

"We want the travelers to be satisfied. And if something goes wrong because a train is canceled or there are delays, compensation must be paid without bureaucracy."

One in every four long-distance trains arrived at its destination late in 2018, according to Deutsche Bahn. The train company paid out €53.6 million ($60.8 million) in refunds last year for delays in local and long-distance transport. That is partly because more people are applying for refunds — 2.7 million passengers completed compensation forms last year, 50 percent more than in 2017.

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