Not all travel professionals are exemplary in their handling of customer disputes. If you have a problem with a professional in France or French abroad, there is one last solution before going to court: the Médiateur du Tourisme (Tourism Ombudsman).
Refund problems, delayed flights, a product that doesn’t live up to its promise…there are countless reasons to have a dispute with a travel professional. While in most cases they manage this very well and professionally, some refuse to deal with their customers’ complaints, or do so in appalling bad faith.
Often, the only solution for the customer is to go to court, and this is what some professionals rely on: it’s time-consuming, involves a lot of legwork and is often too expensive for the expected gain, which is why many customers give up.
There is, however, one last, little-known recourse before it comes to that: the Médiateur du Tourisme et du Voyage (Tourism and Travel Ombudsman).
What is the Tourism and Travel Ombudsman?
Its purpose is to attempt conciliation between customers and professionals to avoid recourse to the courts. An independent, impartial and high-level expert, operating within the framework of a European directive and recognized by the French authorities, he enjoys a legitimacy that means he is generally taken very seriously by professionals, who know that this is the last step before things get complicated.
If the report he issues is favorable to the customer, there’s a good chance that in the event of legal action, the judge will go in the same direction, and the professional has every interest in resolving the problem before it comes to that.
How to contact the Tourism and Travel Ombudsman?
First thing to know: it’s free.
First of all, you must have written to the professional concerned, and he must have replied unfavorably or not replied within two months.
You then have one year to contact the ombudsman via his website.
Once the mediator has checked the admissibility of your request, he will issue a report within 60 days.
The limits of the travel and tourism ombudsman
This is a highly useful system, with just one limitation: the professional must be a member of the system and recognize the ombudsman.
There are over 100,000 members, hotels, airlines, travel agencies, airports….
Of course, these are mainly French operators, based in France.
But there are also a few French operators located abroad.
There are also foreign airlines such as Air Algérie, Royal Air Maroc, Kenya Airways… But absolutely no major foreign airline, European or otherwise, apart from KLM, in which case it’s easy to understand why.
Knowing that, in our experience, airlines tend to be the main source of problems when traveling, we feel that this makes this otherwise useful solution less attractive.
The Tourism and Travel Ombudsman is the last resort for customers who have a problem with a tourism professional in France before going to court. We regret, however, that no major foreign airline has joined the scheme. We even wonder why membership is not compulsory to operate in France.