Loi et reglement

Court uses foreign-language versions of EU regulation to provide interpretation of compensation provision

On 6 January 2021 the Court of Cassation had, for the first time, the opportunity to provide its interpretation of Article 3(3) of EC Regulation 261/2004 which establishes rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.(1)(2)

The court confirmed that lump-sum compensation for flight cancellations or delays, provided for in EC Regulation 261/2004, may not be awarded to passengers who are travelling free of charge, in addition to those who are travelling at a reduced fare that is not directly or indirectly available to the public.

The court thus aligned its jurisprudence with the German Supreme Court’s position.(3)

Another noteworthy feature of this decision was that the court used foreign-language versions of the regulation to interpret the provision.

Legislation can be ambiguous and difficult to interpret. EU texts are no exception, but they have an advantage over national laws in that they are translated into the various EU languages. Therefore, in seeking to interpret an obscure provision of an EU directive or regulation, readers can compare versions of the text in different languages to infer the correct interpretation.

This technique is well known and regularly used by practitioners. However, it is unusual that the Court of Cassation used such a technique in this case and even mentioned it in its decision to support its interpretation.

Accordingly, when faced with an EU text that may be interpreted in different ways, lawyers should not hesitate to provide the court with the official versions of the text that are available in different languages to assert the interpretation of the text sought.

For further information on this topic please contact Thomas Boone at Odi-se Avocats by telephone (+33 1 7935 0750) or email (tboone@odise.com). The Odi-se Avocats website can be accessed at www.odise.com.

Endnotes

(1) Court of Cassation, Civil chamber 1, 6 January 2021, 19-19.940, F-P.

(2) EC Regulation 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. (3) Bundesgerichtshof – 17 March 2015 (X ZR 35/14).

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