Thank you for your interest in our work. The German Conciliation Body for Public Transport (söp_Schlichtungsstelle für den öffentlichen Personenverkehr) was founded in December 2009 and deals with complaints regarding travel by train, bus, airplane or ship. If the traveler does not receive a satisfying response to his or her complaint from the transport company, he or she can contact söp. söp assesses the conciliation request and makes a settlement suggestion to resolve the dispute amicably and out of court. This saves money, time and trouble for all parties involved.
söp is an independent and neutral organization that offers its service throughout Germany to customers of train, bus, flight and ship companies that are part of the söp scheme. The process is free of charge for the consumer; the cost is met by the transport companies.
A traveler can get help with a conciliation request about delays and missed connections, train and plane cancellations, damaged or lost luggage, faulty information, tickets and reservations, and bad service. The main task of the söp is the out-of-court settlement of individual disputes between travelers and the transport companies. Within this, söp also helps to strengthen customer satisfaction with the transport company.
In June 2010 the söp was noted by the European commission for fulfilling the recommendation 98/257/EC for alternative dispute resolution of consumer disputes. The söp follows a service-oriented and practical approach, as an intermodal conciliation body. It is common for travelers to use more than one form of transport (e.g., train to plane), which can take up a lot of time in a dispute by investigating the entire chain of transport, including the responsible contracted partners. With the söp the consumer does not have to deal with the question of responsibility and is independent from the transport of choice, able to just deal with one contact person at söp (one face to the customer approach).
After receipt of a conciliation request the söp assesses the case. A settlement can only be reached if the travel company takes part in the process. This is usually the case if the company is a member of the board of trustees. Please find the list of our members here.
The first step in the process is to forward the matter to the travel company in order to give them the opportunity for a statement regarding the conciliation request. With the statement of circumstances, the söp creates the basis for a decision. The applicable following legal examination of the facts and the law then is conducted independently and neutrally, as it would be in court. Once this process is finalized, the interests are balanced. söp then produces a report with a recommendation for an amicable settlement.
All the conciliators at the söp are fully qualified lawyers. The söp is bound only by law and justice. The recommendation by söp aims to allow an amicable out-of-court settlement of the dispute. However, the recommendation is not legally binding. The recommendation is only binding if both, the complainant and the transport company, agree to it. Each side is free to decide to take their case to court at any time of the process.
The settlement process is funded by the transport companies. For the traveler as a complainant, the conciliation is free. They bear only their own costs, for example for postage and copies, or the involvement of lawyers.
Airlines: Click here
Trains: Click here
Please note that due to our limited staff capacities and according to the legal requirements, all further correspondence with us will be in German. If you are not able to understand German and if your place of domicile is in an EU member state (or in Norway or Iceand), you may contact the network of European Consumer Centers in your home country and your mother tongue, free of charge for linguistic and legal assistance.
Edgar Isermann, Director
Heinz Klewe, General Manager