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ID 959. Charges
unspecified charges Back

Relevant provisions
General question on Directive 2007/64/EC

Question
I would like to inquire on the legality of the following business transaction under EU legislation and - in case this is not legal - to which authority to report this case.

I have made an online booking on the website of the low-cost air carrier Wizz Air Kft. The airline gives two options for payment - by credit card and by bank transfer. Upon selecting the option of payment by bank transfer - and meeting all conditions that the airline specifies as relevant for the bank transfer to apply (e.g. a list of countries of departure, payment in the currency pof country of departure, etc.) - a FEE of 15 Euro is added to the total amount of my booking (return flight for 3 passengers). The fee is NOT specified in any way - upon selection of the bank transfer payment option simply the total amount is increased WITHOUT any explanation or appearance of this fee anywhere in the breakdown of fees.

Please, let me know if charging unidentified fees is allowed under EU law and if the airline is allowed to charge fees for accepting a bank transfer. If this matter has to be reported to national authorities in the country where the company is registered, please let me know to which authority I need to report it in Hungary.

Answer

The Payment Services Directive (PSD) has established, at European level, the principle that merchants, when accepting cards both at the counter and online, are allowed to recover their fees from the clients (the so-called "surcharging" practice), unless Member States decide to forbid or limit this possibility, in order to encourage competition or promote the use of efficient payment instruments. While the PSD does not make any direct reference to the amount of the surcharging, the wording of its Article 52(3) might be interpreted as authorising only the application of a single surcharge for the use of a given payment instrument such as a payment card for executing a payment transaction. Therefore, several surcharges for a single payment transaction might be considered abusive and having a negative impact on the use of certain payment instruments.

In addition, in accordance with Article 50(1) of the PSD, the airline which request a surcharge has to inform the client thereof prior to the initiation of the payment transaction. If if fails to do so, you might like to raise the issue with the competent authorities for breaches of the national provisions implementing the PSD (see details under: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/payments/docs/framework/transposition/complaints_en.pdf

The Regulation on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community[1], in force from 1st November 2008, aims at improving price transparency, by specifying that the final price should include all taxes, fees and charges. The Regulation prevents the airlines from misleading the consumers, for example by advertising tax-free-prices where fees and charges are added only at the time of the reservation. According to this Regulation, when booking fees or credit card fees are unavoidable, they should be included in the indicated final price. If a payment fee cannot be included because it is applied per passenger and not per booking, then its existence and amount must be clearly indicated next to the price.

 

In general, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive[2] (UCP) prohibits consumers from being given unclear, untruthful and incomplete information on the price of a service. In particular, when a commercial communication indicates the price and the characteristics of the service, the price must then include all applicable taxes and additional charges.

 

The Commission services are monitoring the matter closely. Credit card fees have been the subject of extensive investigations. The Commission is currently coordinating the efforts of the national authorities in charge of airline price transparency. In addition, a reflection is ongoing on the impact of the introduction of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) tools on cards, including the possible solutions to the potential problems determined by this process.

 

Finally, in 2007 the European Commission, together with national enforcement authorities, conducted an Internet Sweep in which the websites offering airline tickets were investigated for compliance with consumer law. The websites found in breach of the rules faced enforcement actions, e.g. fines imposed by national authorities. To follow up on the Sweep, in 2008 the Commission contracted a study to check whether air ticket booking sites of airlines and third party agents meet legal requirements. The selected websites (7 per Member State) were checked against a checklist of 14 questions of importance to consumers and following the study, the non-compliant companies were requested to make the necessary corrections on their websites. Data from the study was passed to national enforcement bodies which have the exclusive power to enforce.



[1] Regulation EC 1008/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 2008, on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community - O J L 293/3 of 31 October 2008 L 293/3

[2] Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005, concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Council Directive 84/450/EEC, Directives 97/7/EC, 98/27/EC and 2002/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council – OJ L 149/22 OF 15 June 2005



Date
Submitted on 10/10/2010