03/04/2012 Europe and You: Protecting internet users and airplane passengers

Every week looks at what the European Union is doing for you, your rights, your health and your daily life. This week, during the mini-plenary session of the European Parliament, deputies will vote on improving rights for air passengers, and the European Commission is preparing to open a European centre against cyber crime.

Improve air passengers’ rights

On Thursday the European Parliament will vote on Keith Taylor’s (Greens/ALE-UK) report that looks to improve air passenger’s rights, especially when there is significant delay or cancellation of flights. When faced with the complexity and the slow nature of the complaints procedure, passengers are often discouraged from complaining.

So, in addition to other measures, the rapporteur thinks that it would be appropriate to implement sufficient and simple methods of complaint, and to supply passengers with accurate information about their rights. The rapporteur highlights the need to strengthen legal security, to improve the clarity of the interpretation and ensure the uniform application of regulations in all of the European Union.

According to the new information transfer agreement on European air travel passengers in the United States of America, voted on the 28 March by the Commission of Civil liberties at the European Parliament, PNR information could be kept by the American authorities in an active data base for a period of up to 5 years. After that, they would be transferred to a ‘passive’ data base, accessible by American officials under very strict conditions over a maximum period of 10 years. The vote will be voted on during the plenary session of 19th April.

To compensate for loopholes in the implementation of regulations in member states, especially with regard to the treatment of complaints and sanctions, the rapporteur encourages the Commission to create a European network of organisations in charge of applying regulations. With regards to national organisations that manage customer complaints, Keith Taylor says that their role should be better defined, and to improve the efficiency of sanctions applicable to airlines in case they infringe EU regulations. The Commission will monitor its uniform application throughout the European Union.

Passengers should have unrestricted access to the information in their passenger dossier (Passenger Name Record-PNR) and to know how their PNR information is used and with whom it is shared. Also, airlines must guarantee price transparency, so that the price on their websites reflects the real price. The rapporteur also wants passengers to be able to change elements on their tickets if they make mistakes, without any addition cost

Lack of reciprocity with third countries is costing European Industrial policy

This is what comes out of the report ‘Ending unfair globalisation’ by Yvon Jacob, who was appointed Industry ambassador in June 2010. Unfair competition relating to public markets in third countries strongly penalizes industries that have to pay fees to comply with European norms. The European market, which is worth 2088 billion Euros, is the biggest public market in the world. The lack of reciprocity is expensive for European Industry, and causes relocations, Mr. Jacob mentions.

The rapport takes the example of the BIC group, who, with its production of cigarette lighters, is confronted with products that are not in compliance with European norms. After having undertaken significant investments to respect European norms, the group then ‘lost in Europe 25% of its total sales since 2001’ explains Yvon Jacob.

Fight against increasing cybercrime

In January 2013, at the Europol site in The Hague (Holland), the European Commission hopes to open a European Centre against cyber crime, to help protect European citizens and businesses.  For Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for business protection, the opening of this centre is essential, ‘as we spend more and more time online, organised crime is increasingly present’.

Cyber crime has more than one million victims every day round the world, and costs a total of 388 Billion US dollars internationally.

The centre will tackle illegal activities carried out by organized criminal gangs, like online fraud involving the theft of credit card and bank account details. The protection of profiles in social networks against hacking (up to 600,000 facebook accounts are blocked every day after having been targeted by hackers) and the fight against identity theft on the internet are also part of its mandate.

To find out more

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