Posted on: 16 April 2014
The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) has called on the European Commission plus national and European consumer protection agencies to stop “turning a blind eye to the widespread, unfair pricing practices of numbers of online travel agencies (OTAs), which lure consumers into their websites with the promise of non-existent fares, to which they subsequently apply a previously-undisclosed mark-up at the end of the booking process”.
ELFAA noted that both the Association itself and its member airlines welcome fair and transparent competition from all sides, including online travel agencies, but that there is serious concern at the lack of a level playing field the current situation represents. Despite the detriment to the consumer, the practice is gaining ground, ELFAA indicated, highlighting the flotation this month of one prominent online agency in a major European market.
Such online agencies routinely display a fictitious base fare, lower than the lowest fare offered by the airline concerned, in order to lure passengers into booking a flight, but resulting in a higher total cost to the customer than the true airline price, ELFAA reiterated. The practice, it added, “is in flagrant breach of the legal requirement for transparency in pricing, notably the inclusion of all unavoidable optional fees and charges in the headline price, offered at the outset of the transaction. Moreover, the consumer is often unaware that he/she is not dealing with the airline’s official website and often pays more than he/she would, if buying direct from the airline”.
ELFAA has therefore urged all relevant consumer bodies to denounce these abusive practices. It has further requested the intervention of the European Commission “to protect consumers and eliminate the discriminatory impact and distortion of competition, to which such lack of pricing transparency gives rise”.