Office of Fair Trading
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Travel industry warned not to mislead consumers when selling holidays
Travel companies operating in the UK must provide consumers with clear, transparent and timely information when advertising and selling flights and holidays, states new guidance launched by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) today.
The guidance is aimed at airlines, price comparison websites, travel agents and tour operators, and is designed to make sure the travel industry is fully aware of its responsibilities under existing consumer legislation. The document makes clear that the travel industry must provide consumers with the information they need, when they need it and in a transparent way they can clearly understand. The guidance also sets out how the enforcement process works if regulations are breached such that further action may be necessary.
Key points of the guidance include reminders to the travel industry that:
All unavoidable and foreseeable charges for flights must be included in the headline price - this includes taxes, fees and any other mandatory charges such as a booking fee.
Information on optional extras such as baggage and seat selection charges must be clearly available from the first stage of the booking process.
Consumers must be free to choose these optional extras - they cannot be pre-selected.
The name of the airline travellers will be flying with must be displayed from the start of the booking process.
Information on the financial protection arrangements for the booking and other key information must be made clear to consumers.
Terms and conditions relating to a booking must be clearly available and easy to understand.
Following publication of the guidance, the CAA and OFT will review the websites and promotional material of travel businesses to make sure the guidance is being followed and the industry is complying with the regulations.
Iain Osborne, Group Director for Regulatory Policy at the CAA, said:
'Consumers should be able to make informed choices when booking their holidays - based on clear and transparent information provided by their travel company.
'In most cases, travel companies are providing information in this way and people can select the flights and holidays that best suit their needs. But to make sure no one is misled about what they are buying in the future, we have worked with the OFT to produce this guidance and ensure the travel industry is fully aware of its legal obligations to consumers.'
Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director of the OFT's Goods and Consumer group, said:
'Booking a holiday should be simple. People should be able to make a clear choice and should not be surprised by hidden charges or conditions after they have booked or arrived at their resort or destination. Our guidance makes life easier for consumers by leaving the travel industry in no doubt about its responsibilities.'
Publication of the guidance follows a 10-week consultation on the draft version of the guidance, which gave the travel industry the opportunity to feed in views on the issues covered in the document. The OFT and CAA amended the guidance to reflect the views received, and two versions of the guidance are now available: an in-depth guidance document (pdf 744kb); and a shorter version for quick and easy reference (pdf 815kb). Both set out key requirements that all businesses operating in the travel industry should be aware of.
Further advice for UK passengers is available from the CAA's online passenger portal - where passengers can access advice before they book, ahead of their travel and even after their return. Visit the CAA's passenger portal at: www.caa.co.uk/passengers.
The guidance covers the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, the Air Services Regulation (ASR), the Carrier Identity Regulation and the E-Commerce Regulation.
The CAA is the lead enforcer for the Carrier Identity Regulation. Both the CAA and OFT have enforcement powers for the other regulations set out in the guidance. The CAA and the OFT would have regard to their published prioritisation principles before taking enforcement action. On 6 April 2013 powers to enforce the price transparency requirements of the Air Services Regulation will come into force. These will mirror the CAA's.
The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.
The OFT is the UK's consumer and competition authority. Its mission is to make markets work well for consumers.