The EU Sweep is a new kind of enforcement action – a systematic check carried out simultaneously in different Member States to investigate breaches of consumer protection law. Such action is co-ordinated by the European Commission under the Consumer Protection Co-operation Regulation which came into force at the end of 2006. In September 2007, in the first sweep, participating national authorities scanned hundreds of airline ticket selling websites to identify those which appeared to be in breach of the law, focusing on clear pricing, availability of offers and clear contract terms. More than 50% of websites checked showed irregularities. This phase was followed by an enforcement phase when authorities contacted companies asking them to correct their sites or clarify their position. The final result of the 2007 enforcement action is that 94% of sites originally checked are now compliant. For more information on the current state of play see IP/09/783.
Examples of good and bad practice
Please view the good and bad examples below and skim over both pages to find the specific examples.
Outcome of the 2007 Airline Sweep Enforcement Action
The final results show a "step change" in airline ticket selling websites across Europe in terms of compliance with consumer protection rules. The result of the EU enforcement investigation started in September 2007 – with 15 EU national authorities and Norway - 115 airline websites out of the 137 websites investigated have been corrected.
"EU Consumer Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva said: This Europe-wide airline investigation is changing the face of airline websites across the EU. There is no room for complacency; there is more work to be done. But this first pan European enforcement investigation has shown it has real "teeth" and can deliver. The next step is an industry wide agreement, and we will continue to monitor developments in the sector closely."
Vice President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Transport said, "Applying full price transparency is an obligation under the air services regulation. It is a duty for airlines to impose high standards across the industry; it is our responsibility to ensure that all players respect the same rules. This is of first and foremost importance for the consumer who wants to compare prices across airlines and make a real choice."
Press release: Airlines move to clean up ticket selling websites, Brussels
Previous results summary
Following the enforcement action by enforcement authorities, so far, results show that more than half of the sites found with irregularities have now been corrected. This is a positive trend and is a signal that this new kind of joint enforcement action works well. Most companies accepted to rapidly change their website, when informed about the misleading parts they contained, which shows that a majority of companies are willing to co-operate to improve consumer rights.
The main problems found concerned:
- insufficient or unclear information about price, where the price is split into a series of diverse charges, and only becomes clear at the end of the booking process;
- practice relating to special offers where there was eye-catching marketing but which were difficult if not impossible to find in reality;
- unclear information on contract terms, either, missing, in another language, or illegible due to use of characters of another language.
Airline Ticket selling website – EU Enforcement Results. Questions and Answers
Can you trust air ticket selling sites? Mid-term Report (situation as of 22/02/2008)
Previous Press material:
Press release: EU crackdown on misleading airline ticket websites (14-11-2007)
Memo: EU investigates airline ticket selling websites. Questions and answers (14-11-2007)
What consumers should find
Consumers should find clear information about price, about availability of offers, and should find clear legible contract terms and conditions in the language of the site consulted. Hereunder is a list stating typical problems encountered.
What consumers should watch out for
|1.||Unclear information on price||where extra non-optional charges are added throughout the booking process, sometimes at the end, resulting in a different end price e.g. taxes, booking fee, credit card fee, handling fees, feul charge, phone charge, invoice fee.|
|2.||Problem with availability of the offer||No real availability of offers announced with eye-catching marketing
No information on booking and travel period for special offers or the number available
|3.||Problems with the conditions or contract terms||Conditions and/or in a language different to that of the site or illegible due to use of characters of another language
Prices in a currency other than the target country
|4.||Information problem||No indication of contact details for the site|