Thank you for your interest in the work of the German Conciliation Body for Public Transport (söp_Schlichtungsstelle für den öffentlichen Personenverkehr). The söp was founded in December 2009 and handles disputes between travelers and transport companies for travel by train, bus, airplane or ship. Travelers can contact söp if they receive an unsatisfying response or none at all to complaints to the transport company. The conciliation request is then assessed and a settlement recommendation is made to resolve the dispute amicably and out of court. This saves money, time and trouble for all parties involved.
The söp is an independent and neutral organization that offers its service to customers of companies that participate in the söp conciliation. The process is free of charge for the customer; the cost is met by the transport companies.
Travelers can request a conciliation process concerning 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 transport companies. For that matter, söp also helps to strengthen customer satisfaction with the transport company.
When resolving disputes, investigating the entire chain of transport and the responsible contracting partners can often take a long time since travelers often use more than one form of transportation (e.g., train to plane). At söp the customers do not have to handle the question of responsibility themselves and have one central contact person (one face to the customer approach).
After receiving a conciliation request, it is assessed by the söp. A case can only be processed if the transport company participates in the söp conciliation scheme, which is usually the case if the company is a member of our board of trustees. Please find the list of members here.
If the request is admissible, the matter is forwarded to the transport company in order to give it an opportunity for a statement regarding the conciliation request. If needed, also the complainant is asked for further information and documents. The clarification of the circumstances and the airline’s statement serve as a basis for the decision. The following examination of the factual and legal situation is conducted independently and neutrally, as it would be in court. Once this process is finalised, the interests are balanced. The 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 aim of the conciliation recommendations is an amicable out-of-court dispute settlement. However, they are legally not binding. A recommendation only becomes binding if both parties, complainant and transport company, agree to it. Each party involved is free to take their case to court at any time of the process.
The conciliation process is funded by the transport companies. For the traveler as a complainant it is free of charge. The complainant only bears his or her own costs such as for postage and copies or the involvement of lawyers.
Airlines: Click here
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