The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is investigating claims that a number airlines are still passing hidden costs onto customers when they book flights online.
Back in June the OFT, following a complaint from consumer group Which?, the OFT warned travel companies to either “change misleading debit and credit card surcharging practices or face enforcement action under consumer protection laws.”
The OFT also called for the law to be updated to stop consumers being surcharged when buying goods and services with any debit card.
The investigation – which focused on the passenger transport sector – found ‘considerable evidence’ of companies using ‘drip pricing’ practices for surcharging online, which was particularly prevalent in the airline sector.
Despite securing voluntarily agreements from a number of airlines to improve the transparency of their payment and booking fees following the June investigation, the OFT still has a number of concerns about ‘transparency and presentation’ of payment and card surcharges.
According to the claims, some airline customers are still being presented with additional costs towards the end of the online booking process, once they have clicked through a number of web pages and nearly completed the transaction. The OFT estimated UK consumers spent £300 million on payment surcharges for flights during 2009.
According to reports, The OFT has recently approached ‘a number’ of airlines to look into the matter more closely and determine whether they are adhering to consumer protection legislation.
Although no airlines have been named by the OFT, according to the Financial Times, Flybe and Lufthansa and bmi are amongst those under investigation.
The OFT commented: “If we do find airlines are breaking consumer protection laws, we could seek a High Court Injunction to force them to change their practices,”
“We announced in June that, as customers have to pay for online bookings with a card, airlines must include debit card charges at the outset and we warned then that if they didn’t we would be minded to take action.
“We have now launched a formal investigation.”