Thursday, 22 January 2015

CJEU: The final price of air fares at booking process must be indicated at all times and for each flight shown

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in its judgment on the case C-573/13 that airline websites must indicate the total price of the air fare at all stages of the booking process. Furthermore, the total price must be displayed for all flights shown on the screen and not only for the selected flight.

The case concerned the interpretation of Art. 23 (1) of the Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community, according to which
Air fares and air rates available to the general public shall include the applicable conditions when offered or published in any form, including on the Internet, for air services from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies. The final price to be paid shall at all times be indicated and shall include the applicable air fare or air rate as well as all applicable taxes, and charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. In addition to the indication of the final price, at least the following shall be specified:
(a)      air fare or air rate;
(b)      taxes;
(c)      airport charges; and
(d)    other charges, surcharges or fees, such as those related to security or fuel;
where the items listed under (b), (c) and (d) have been added to the air fare or air rate. Optional price supplements shall be communicated in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of any booking process and their acceptance by the customer shall be on an “opt-in” basis.

The German Supreme Court (BGH) had asked the CJEU, which is responsible for the uniform interpretation of EU law, whether the final price to be paid must, in the context of a computerized booking system, be indicated
(1) when the prices of air services are shown for the first time and
(2) only for the air service specifically selected by the customer or for each air service shown.

The case concerned a class action of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations against the practice of the German air carrier Air Berlin, which added a service fee at the end of the booking process, whereas the possibility of adding such fee was indicated at the beginning of such process without any indication of its height. Furthermore, the airline’s website displayed the final price of all available flights, yet an analysis of the air fare was indicated only for the flight selected by the passenger (the default selection was for the cheapest flight).

The CJEU held that the wording of Art. 23 (1) and the purpose of the provision, which is to establish transparency in air fares and facilitate price comparison, led to the conclusion that an analysis of the air fare should be displayed at the very beginning of the booking procedure. In addition, effective price-comparison required that such analysis should be visible for all flights displayed and not only for the flight selected.

According to a report from (in German), Air Berlin stated that it had already changed its booking practice long before the judgment was rendered, whereas the representative of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations commented that the Federation pursued a landmark judgment, because such booking practices are wide-spread mainly among online tour organizers.

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