If you have a dispute related to federally-regulated modes of transportation (air, rail, marine, and interprovincial buses on accessibility matters), the Canadian Transportation Agency may be able to help. The Agency can bring you and the transportation operator together informally, help you to understand each other's needs and interests, and find a solution that works for both.
Alternatively, the Agency can investigate a complaint using a formal procedure and issue a decision that can carry the same weight as a court ruling.
Types of disputes handled by the Agency
The Agency handles disputes about transportation services, prices, fees and charges, terms and conditions of carriage, and many other matters.
In air transportation, many disputes are based on whether the airline has properly applied its published terms and conditions of carriage (also called its tariff), or respected Canadian law or international conventions.
In rail transport, disputes arise over interswitching, rates on competitive or single lines, running rights and level of service. Another aspect of rail complaints are disputes over noise and vibration caused by a railway company when constructing or operating a railway. Marine issues often involve user fees at ports or charges for pilotage services.
The Agency also handles accessibility issues, ensuring that people with disabilities can travel without encountering undue obstacles to their mobility. Disputes often involve services such as assistance in boarding or disembarking, assistance relating to mobility aids, and communication of information.
What the Agency cannot handle
Although the Agency can handle many complaints in the areas of transportation that are regulated by the federal government, there are some disputes that it cannot handle, such as the quality of food that is served to you, or the manners of the transportation provider's employees.
The Agency's experience
Hundreds of people and organizations turn to the Agency each year looking for ways to solve their disputes about transportation matters. Agency staff know the transportation industry, its issues and its stakeholders very well. It has a long experience in handling complaints, and has developed ways to resolve them quickly, effectively and fairly.
How the Agency handles disputes
The Agency strongly recommends that you bring your complaint to the transportation operator directly. This provides an opportunity for the operator to respond to your concerns and may enable you to work something out directly with its representatives.
But if its response doesn't satisfy you, or if you don't hear back from the operator at all after waiting long enough for a reply, then the next step is to discuss the dispute with an Agency staff member.
The Agency will attempt to informally resolve the dispute through discussions with you and the transportation operator. This informal discussion will be faster, simpler, and cheaper for everyone. The informal route can also lead to agreements that a formal decision might never produce.
If the informal process does not resolve the dispute, you may then wish to consider using the Agency's formal process. This route is more complex. It uses written arguments, in some cases oral hearings, and results in binding decisions.
Types of procedures
There are four types of approaches to resolving disputes that may be used: