A prerequisite for the out-of-court settlement of disputes is the participation of the respective company in the conciliation procedure. This is generally the case if the company is a member of the söp sponsoring association. Currently, söp arbitrates for around 400 companies.
In the rail transport sector, söp is the appropriate point of contact for 99% of long-distance travellers and 95% of regional travellers. In the flight sector, the national and international airlines relevant to Germany, including low-cost carriers, participate in the conciliation procedure. söp covers almost 100% of the long-distance coach market. In some cases, conciliation is also possible for passengers travelling by ship.
In the field of local public transport (bus, tram, underground), söp mediates for companies in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia and parts of Saxony.
Conciliation is currently being developed for the travel industry (travel agents and tour operators).
In the first step, the documents you send to söp are checked for completeness. If necessary, we will ask you for further documents or information. Afterwards, we usually contact the respective company to give them the opportunity to make an additional statement. By clarifying the facts of the case, we create a basis for making a decision. The subsequent legal examination of the facts and legal situation is performed with the same level of professional independence and objectivity as a judge would apply. Once this examination has been completed, the respective interests involved are weighed up. To achieve an amicable settlement, the conciliation body submits a written, substantiated conciliation proposal on the basis of the previously determined legal situation (see söp_ Rules of Procedure). You can find examples of how a conciliation recommendation is structured in detail under the menu item söp_Recommendations (currently only available in German).
All söp conciliators are fully qualified lawyers appointed by the advisory council and the members. söp is exclusively bound by law and justice.
If travellers as complainants and companies as respondents agree to the conciliation recommendation, the proposed solution becomes legally binding between both parties – as is the case in a (settlement) agreement.
Fortunately, in practice, the parties agree to the conciliation recommendation in well over 80% of cases, ensuring that the dispute is settled out of court and is free of charge for the consumer. Moreover, the complainants have the option of bringing the case to court at any stage of the conciliation procedure – even if the conciliation may have failed.
Free of charge
The conciliation procedure is free of charge for consumers in accordance with the provisions of the German Consumer Dispute Settlement Act (VSBG). Any compensation/remuneration to which the travellers are entitled is therefore not reduced by processing fees, contingency fees or any value added tax to be charged. Consumers will only be required to bear costs they may have incurred for postage, making copies or lawyers they may have engaged.
The conciliation procedure is financed exclusively by the companies that are members of the söp association. They consider the conciliation procedure as an important component of their customer service (“service plus”), which is all the more important if something has “gone wrong” despite a good complaint management.