First, the bad news: European airlines still routinely deceive customers when it comes to air fares, according to a new report by the EU. But there’s also good news — it’s not happening as often, thanks to tighter government regulation.
“Many people are attracted to buying a ticket from one of these sites by their very low prices,” says the EU’s chief consumer advocate, Meglena Kuneva. “However, what they do not realize is that the price quoted does not include items such as tax, etc. In the end the person ends up paying much more than was initially advertised. This is clearly forbidden by EU law.”
Kuneva, who made the comments on her blog this morning, unveiled the results of the work the EU undertook over the last two years to clean up airline ticket selling Web sites.
“There were – and still are – serious problems in this area,” she notes, adding, “There is more work to be done.”
The outcome of the work we have done in this field is encouraging. In 2007 the Commission coordinated a simultaneous investigation of airline Web sites by the national authorities that enforce consumer legislation, known as a “sweep”. Many serious breaches were discovered. Almost all of these infringements have now been resolved, and I’d like to congratulate the national authorities for their work on this. Of course, things are by no means perfect and we still have work to do.
Of 67 airline sites examined, 16 complied fully with EU legislation and are committed to maintaining these standards, Kuneva says. Another 40 airlines immediately gave the EU a commitment to correct their sites when they were informed about the problems identified.
The EU leads the world when it comes to consumer protection for airline passengers. But it needs help. In a gesture that would be unthinkable in the United States, the commissioner appealed to passengers for help.
Most importantly, you, the consumer, have a decisive role to play in keeping up pressure on airlines not to continue or slip back to unacceptable behavior. Nobody is better placed than the customer to immediately spot dubious practices and to complain to companies, to consumer bodies and to their national authorities.
If airlines know that consumers are well-informed and watchful, and will not let them easily get away with illegal conduct, the likelihood is much higher that they will play by the rules.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see the government take the passenger’s side here in the States, for a change?