For three months, a dentist practicing in Győr wrote letter after letter to the Government Customer Helpline and to the consumer protection service, asking where to turn because Ryanair had charged them a total of nearly HUF 20,000 (EUR 49.3) in departure tax before their trip to England. For a while, he received no answer, and in the end, he got a rather infuriating one. Read our article to get to know his story.
The Government Customer Helpline
It took three whole months for the Hungarian government to somehow react to the dentist’s problem and try to help them out.
Dr Viktor Utassy, who lives near Győr, was planning to travel with his wife and three children to visit their daughter, who lives and studies in the UK, in mid-July. They had booked their tickets in time, back in the spring, and with Covid having blown through their calculations so many times before, they hoped everything would be all right this time.
Then on June 9, they received a letter from Ryanair saying,
“On June 4, 2022, Hungary introduced a new air traffic tax for passengers on flights departing from Hungary on or after July 1, 2022. This means that even if a booking was made before 4 June but the flight departs from Hungary on or after 1 July, this new tax will be payable to the Hungarian Government. The new tax is HUF 3,900 (approx. EUR 10). The tax per passenger on the flight is HUF 3,900.”
For five of them, this meant an extra HUF 20,000 (EUR 49.3) for the outward journey, Telex writes.
He was not going to drop the case
Utassy was not going to drop this case. He wrote a letter to the live chat of the Government Helpline on the same day. Here is a quote from the correspondence:
– “Dear Sir/Madam! I’m interested in the direct transfer of the departure tax to individuals, and I don’t know exactly where to turn. I received a message from Ryanair today that they will charge us the tax of 3900 HUF per person for the family trip we booked to England for our daughter’s wedding. This goes against government communication. Please help!
– Please be patient until we reply.
– Thank you! I am waiting.
– We cannot take a position on this matter. I can assign you the section in the government regulation, if that helps. Also, the tax and customs office is the authority responsible for this, so you may wish to contact them or your legal representative.
– Thank you! According to Gergely Gulyás, the government is trying to monitor the price of services and if it finds that somewhere companies are trying to charge consumers the departure tax, it will punish the “tricksters”. Please, if you can, pass on this recent incident to the relevant authorities. Thanks again for your help!
– We are not authorized to forward your request or question. Your opinion is important to us, please review our work. Thank you for your inquiry! Have a nice day!”
After this, the scandal around Ryanair broke out
Obviously, he got no further. Then that day, the central scandal broke out around Ryanair: presumably Viktor was not the only complainant, with the government announcing an investigation into Ryanair. In any case, he decided to write a letter to the consumer protection authorities.
In the meantime, July came, the family went to England, paid the extra HUF 20,000 out of necessity, and then returned home. Then, on 8 August, Viktor received a letter from the Consumer Protection Department of the Government Office of Budapest.
Gábor Tóth, the head of the department, informed him that “in order to investigate the case, he has initiated proceedings against Ryanair. During the procedure it was established that the Company had engaged in unfair commercial practices, for which the Consumer Protection Department imposed a consumer protection fine on the Company.” This refers to the HUF 300 million (EUR 739,400) fine imposed on Ryanair by the government.
How would they be compensated?
However, the family did not know how they would be compensated. So they asked this question in their reply letter.
“Thank you for your letter about Ryanair. Unfortunately, it does not say what action the operator has to take towards me to rectify its omission, as it has paid and passed on the ‘excess profit’ tax on our family travel? I enclose the bank statement. I await your reply,” the head of the family wrote.
The reply arrived the next day:
“Please be informed that the consumer protection authority does not have the power to enforce civil law claims referred to the courts, and therefore cannot oblige the airline to pay the fee charged. You can take your claim to court.”
In other words, the family could conclude from this that anyone who feels that they have been charged the extra profit tax should not hope that the government will be able to oblige the company to repay this amount. Anyone who wants to can go to court for their money, they can sue for a few thousand or a few tens of thousands of forints, even for years.
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Source: Telex, DNH
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