Trade Practices

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U.S.-DOT: new rules for charter operators

The Transportation Department has issued a guidance letter to tour operators and others in the public charter industry, imposing new requirements in the wake of the March collapse of Direct Air. According to the DOT, the company:

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Germany: court decides that airline can ban OTA from access to its booking website

The plaintiff, an Irish low cost carrier, exclusively sells tickets through its own website or its call center in order to keep the fares low and avoid customers being charged with any service fees by third parties. To book a flight on the website it is required to accept the carrier's General Condtions of Contract. These General Condtions of Contract explicitly exclude travel agents or other professional sellers from booking.

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Australia: Indonesian national airline not immune from legal action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The Australian High court has ruled on 7 September 2012 that Indonesian national airline Garuda isn't immune from legal action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Since 2008, the ACCC has been pursuing a number of airlines, including Garuda in relation to alleged price fixing and anti-competitive conduct relating to surcharges applied to the carriage of air freight. Garuda contended that they were immune from the ACCC proceedings under the Foreign States Immunities Act 1985 (FSI Act).

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UK: airlines to include debit card surcharges in headline prices

Following enforcement action of the U.K. Office of Fair Trading (OFT), 12 airlines have agreed to include debit card surcharges in the headline price rather than surprise consumers at the end of the booking process. Any surcharges for paying by credit card will be easy to find when booking online. Aer Lingus, BMI Baby, Eastern Airways, easyJet, Flybe, German Wings, Jet2, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson (TUI) and Wizz Air were subject to an OFT consumer law investigation and have agreed to change their practices.

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USA: DOT fines companies for violating Consumer Protection and Price Advertising Rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fined online travel agent Travelocity $180,000 for violating the Department’s rule on full-fare advertising by failing to include fuel surcharges and other fees in advertised airfares and ordered it to cease and desist from further violations.

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USA: Airlines lose appeal against DOT fare rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has upheld the Transportation Department’s full-fare advertising and fare refund rules that had been challenged by Allegiant, Spirit and Southwest. The rules that require airlines and travel sellers to quote full prices with all taxes and mandatory fees includedwent into effect last year. The airlines had challenged that provision on the grounds that there is nothing “inherently” deceptive about showing taxes separately, as is commonly done in most other industries.

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CJEU: inclusion of flight cancellation insurance as a default setting unlawful when selling air tickets over the internet

A German consumer-protection association has taken proceedings against ebookers.com before the German courts with a view to requiring that company to refrain from automatically including cancellation insurance with the air fare:

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UK: British Airways to check passengers on Google?

According to an article by Margaret Tofalides from Manches LLP, published on lexology.com, British Airways is planning to use information from the internet to create dossiers on passengers. The programme would search Google images in order to find pictures of passengers so that they can be identified by the BA staff. It would would also search data held by BA, including records of previous flights and complaints. The programme, of course, raises data protection and privacy concerns.

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Spain: Court of Appeal of Barcelona regards Ryanair's boarding pass printing policy lawful

On October 5, 2011 the Court of Appeal of Barcelona delivered a judgment in a case concerning Ryanair's policy with regard to printing boarding passes: the claimant had been charged EUR 40 by Ryanair because he had appeared at the airport without a printed bording pass. He sued for reimbursement of this "fine" and requested that the related clause within the general conditions of contract was declared void because of being unfair. The court of first instance granted the claim.

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UK: OFT fines British Airways in fuel surcharges price-fixing case

On April 19, 2012, the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced its decision that British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) engaged in anti-competitive practices in relation to the pricing of passenger fuel surcharges, and has imposed a fine of GBP 58.5 million on BA. VAA brought the matter to the OFT's attention and, under the OFT's leniency policy, has not been fined.

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