Online flight sales abuse consumer rights
According to the Spanish Union of Consumers (UCE) the most popular way for Spaniards to book their flights is through internet websites. However, according to the president of the UCE, José Ángel Oliván, this also generates the most complaints due to most online booking companies ignoring national and international consumer rights.
The UCE found that none of the online booking companies or airlines with their own websites respected consumer rights 100%. It found that Ryanair had the worst record while Iberia offered its clients the best guarantees.
The study which analyzed the web pages of Iberia, Spanair, Air Europa, Ryanair, Easy Jet, Vueling, Air Berlin, British Airways, Air France as well as online booking companies such as Rumbo.es, Lastminute.com and Viajar.com discovered that there was a wide range of differences between each company with regards to the guarantees they offered consumers.
Firstly, most websites do not tell their consumers who they are dealing with directly and websites do not carry contact pages with addresses or phone numbers.
Secondly, privacy policies do not tend to protect the consumer sufficiently and in many cases in order to buy a ticket consumers need to give their personal details to third party companies who then use this information for advertising or statistics.
The study also found that many of the companies used deceptive advertising techniques. However, the most worrying finding was the use of ‘abusive clauses’ especially in the case of Air France or Ryanair which in contrary to Spanish law dealt with complaints in compliance with French or Irish law.
The study considered extra costs paid by the consumer to be ‘abusive and too high’ for example the cost of issuing a ticket when it is the consumer who actually has to print out the ticket or the charges for using a credit or debit card when in many cases this is the only method of payment available.
The extra charges for carrying luggage were also found to be ‘abusive’ and sometimes were more than the cost of the ticket itself.
According to the findings of the study carried out by the UCE only Iberia’s webpage has a special section which includes information on where clients can get in touch with the company. It also found that a lot of the companies in the study had telephone numbers which carried additional charges for the consumer.
As a result of the study the UCE has issued an informative guide which includes the rights of consumers and national, European and International laws governing air travel (with information on the laws on delays, overbooking, cancellations etc).
The guide will be available in the offices of the UCE as well as travel agencies and the complaints office of AENA in Majorca airport. The guide points out that complaints must be made in writing and include copies of all relevant documentation.