Berlin (AP) - The insolvency of the tour operator Thomas Cook has hit many citizens twice: First, it spoiled hundreds of thousands of tourists the long-awaited dream trip.
Then they also threatened to stay on a part of the costs - because the statutory sum insured is far from sufficient. At least this fear is now off the table: The federal government jumps with tax money in the breach.
How much money do the travelers get back?
At the end they should receive the travel price or their deposit back in full: one part of the insured sum and the rest of the federal government. "The damage that is not compensated by other side will replace the federal government," is the promise.
What must Thomas Cook customers do to get the money?
Nothing at all, assures the federal government. We do not yet know exactly how the money should be repaid. Even when consumers see money, is still completely unclear. The main thing is first of all the certainty not to sit on the costs, stressed Consumer Protection Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD). Everything else is currently being discussed with the insolvency administrator and the insurance company. So far, the federal government says only that the procedure should be as simple and free. The claims are to be pursued from a single source, so consumers do not get multiple transfers from different pots. Further information will be available at the beginning of 2020.
What do the aids cost the federal government?
Even that is still unclear, the federal government quasi presents a blank check. It will be at least 140 million euros, because the insurance Zurich has already registered claims to over 250 million euros until 1 November. But this sum is likely to rise. According to ARD Experts assume damages of 300 to 500 million euros. The Ministry of Justice wants to clarify some legal issues. So it is believed that the cost of recovering the tourists who were stranded during the bankruptcy, would have to be paid from another pot of insurance.
How does the federal government want to raise the money?
It should come from the normal federal budget, Lambrecht spoke of "extra and extraordinary expenditure". It is to be expected that Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) can make the necessary funds available without taking up new debts. For one, the federal government still has a reserve, which was saved after the refugee crisis. On the other hand, there are always hidden gaps in the federal budget that can be drawn in such emergencies.
Why is the Federal Government stepping in now?
Lambrecht stressed that they did not want to leave customers with the difficult legal situation alone. "We're talking about people who have been saving a well-deserved holiday for a very long time and whose prepayments would otherwise be largely lost." At the same time, the federal government wants to prevent a process avalanche that would have kept the courts busy. "It's about averting a barrage of lawsuits and lengthy litigation that also carries a huge litigation risk," Lambrecht said. The customer was not reasonable to lead such long-standing legal disputes with correspondingly high legal and procedural costs in case of uncertain outcome.
Does this also apply to future insolvencies of tour operators?
No, the federal government does not want to step in every time - instead they are working on better protection in travel law. Two variants are discussed: The sum insured could be increased or a fund introduced. Such a travel guarantee fund currently exists, for example, in Denmark. Here, the organizers pay for each of their customers a certain amount in a pot, which can then be accessed in an emergency. Lambrecht expects results in the spring. Tourists should also be able to rely on being secured, she emphasized.
How is the step of the Federal Government evaluated?
Consumer advocates are pleased that the Federal Government intervenes. At the same time, the board of the Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, Klaus Müller, criticizes the taxpayer for having to adhere to "a political mistake and a lobbying success for the tourism and insurance industry". Years ago, the sum insured would have had to be raised because it was clear that it would never be enough. The opposition is also not thrilled that the taxpayer should now step in. That was "a confession of the great coalition," said FDP faction Vice Michael Theurer. "It can not concern that risks are nationalized and profits are privatized." The German Travel Association, however, worries especially the tour operators: The new model of the bankruptcy bill must be economically viable for them, he warned.
Zurich to the Thomas Cook case with ongoing updates