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Charter vacation – court proceedings included

When a Berlin charter agency suddenly finds itself in Australia

What can happen if you book your charter cruise “somewhere” and only trust top-styled websites and meaningless “quality seals” is unfortunately described to us time and again.

Despite a German-language website, a resounding name and plenty of self-promotion, you have to be aware that you never know who is really behind an online service. In most cases, you also don’t know the charter company (at least not its reliability!) with whom you ultimately book your boat through the online agency. So it is quite normal to find yourself in a contractual relationship with at least two companies when making a “normal” charter booking, which are often based outside Europe, even in European destinations.

You can guess what the skipper will face in the event of a dispute…

But read here the clear facts of cases that have only reached us in the last few weeks!

Our customer H.-C. V. from Schleswig-Holstein reported to us:

I had chartered a sailing yacht from a Berlin online agency via their internet portal in Greece in September. I had phoned the company’s agents several times beforehand to find out about the charter conditions and the quality of the yacht.

On arrival, a representative of the agency informed me by telephone that the yacht was not available. I was not given a reason despite asking. It was only after my return to Germany that I found out from the charter company, which was actually reputable, that the agency had not paid the charter price to the charter company despite several reminders and that the handover of the yacht had therefore been refused.

After landing in Athens, I phoned the agency several times. But it was only after a conversation with the managing director that I was offered a (supposedly) higher-quality yacht at no extra charge, arranged through another agency that – allegedly – worked together with the Berlin online agency. However, this local agency demanded that I pay the charter price of 3300€ – almost 600€ more than I had already paid! – via my credit card until they receive the money from the Berlin online agency. After consulting with the manager, who assured me that the money would be transferred on Monday and in view of the alternative of possibly having to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday and thus missing 3-4 sailing days, I agreed. I was happy to have finally got a boat after all and my crew didn’t feel like discussing the matter any further – after all, it was our vacation!

At the end of the charter, the local agency informed me that the Berlin online agency had not transferred the money and that they were withholding the €3300!

From now on, the managing director, who I had previously been able to get on the phone at almost any time of day, was no longer available by phone and his (previously very competent and friendly) employees suddenly either had no idea or were not responsible.

At the end of the charter, the local agency informed me that the Berlin online agency had not transferred the money and that they were withholding the €3300!

From now on, the managing director, who I had previously been able to get on the phone at almost any time of day, was no longer available by phone and his (previously very competent and friendly) employees suddenly either had no idea or were not responsible.

I then contacted the consumer advice center – after weeks of correspondence, in the end with no result, but with the surprising realization that the owner of the Berlin charter agency lives in Australia!

I hired a lawyer at my own expense and sued the Berlin online agency for repayment of €3,300 and filed a criminal complaint for fraud. Now Australia has pulled out all the stops to obstruct and slow down the process. Among other things, I was supposed to reimburse the managing director in advance for the cost of a business class flight and loss of earnings for a week.
As a result, I even received cease and desist orders from the managing director under threat of substantial fines and was threatened and insulted.

Finally, I won the case with the judgment of the Schöneberg Local Court of 12.06.2018, AZ 15C213/17: the Berlin online agency was ordered to pay the €3,300 plus default interest.

However, the criminal charges of fraud and false affidavit are currently on hold due to the owner’s residence in Australia. So the Lord can continue to “work” with impunity.

Dr. Friedrich Schöchl
CEO YACHT-POOL

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