Following the UK Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) warning to the holiday and travel industry in February, the OFT has successfully taken action against 13 airlines that did not include all fixed, non-optional costs, such as taxes, in prices on their websites. As a result eleven airlines have already changed their advertisements and websites (both their homepages and booking processes) to include fixed, non-optional costs in their advertised prices and the OFT expects continued compliance from these airlines.
Two other airlines, Aer Lingus and Ryanair, have changed their homepages, but have said technical issues prevent them from changing their entire website booking processes immediately. However, the OFT is satisfied that these airlines will be making these changes shortly, and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the agreed changes are made.
In the interim period, Ryanair has agreed to place a clear statement on its website to inform consumers how much the taxes and charges will add to the final price.
In a co-ordinated move, ABTA - The Travel Association has taken action against members that have failed to comply with the ABTA Code of Conduct in relation to the same type of misleading price indications. On 13 June, the ABTA Code of Conduct Committee handed out fines and reprimands to several ABTA members for failing to include fixed, non-optional costs in prices. The OFT strongly welcomes and supports ABTA’s action.
The OFT will be working with international partners, including the National Consumer Agency (NCA) in Ireland, to ensure compliance across the holiday and travel industry, and to ensure that the undertakings provided by the airlines are complied with.
Sean Williams, OFT Executive Director said:
‘The OFT is committed to ensure that consumers are not mislead by advertised prices that bear little relation to actual prices. Misleading pricing not only undermines consumer confidence but also distorts competition and we will enforce the law enthusiastically where we find that consumers have been misled.’
As of 31 July, easyJet, bmibaby, Flybe, Thomsonfly, flythomascook (a trading name of Thomas Cook Tour Operations Limited), Monarch, Jet2, Globespan, Wizz Air, Sky Europe and German Wings have changed their websites to include fixed, non-optional costs in all prices. Ryanair and Aer Lingus have changed their homepages to include fixed, non-optional costs with immediate effect. Technical issues have prevented both airlines from changing their booking processes by 31 July, but both have satisfied the OFT that they will do so as soon as it is possible.