Buying airline tickets online

[14th May 2008]

Arrivals and departures

The EU has found that a third of consumers are being ripped off, misled or confused when they try to buy airline tickets online.

The EU surveyed 386 websites in 13 EU countries plus Norway selling airline tickets and penalised 137 of them. But only half of these websites have made any improvements.

The focus of the EU investigation was unfair contract terms, and its findings are alarming. No less than one third of the websites were found to be breaching consumer law. Many of the sites were found to have more than one error, including misleading pricing, advertised offers that were unavailable, and irregular contract terms.

A lack of transparency is also noted by the EU. Most countries in the EU are unable to publish lists of offenders while cases are still in court. However, there have been some national surveys of airline booking sites.

The EU says that enforcement work will be stepped up and it will monitor developments between now and May 2009 before deciding where it needs to intervene.

"I hope operators have now realised the determination of the commission to act on behalf of consumers where necessary," says EU consumer commissioner, Meglena Kuneva. If airlines don’t improve their sales and marketing practices by 1st May 2009, Kuneva says the EU "will have no choice but to intervene".

The EU says it wants to see the first price advertised being the final price paid, any limitations on special offers being clearly flagged, and fair contracts available in the consumer's native language.

Written by: Nick Purdom


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