Brussels, 14 May 2009
New EU results published today show a "step change" in airline ticket selling websites across Europe in terms of compliance with consumer protection rules. The findings feature in a final report on an 18 month EU-wide process to crackdown on misleading advertising and unfair practices. As a result of an EU enforcement investigation started in September 2007 – with 15 EU national authorities and Norway - 115 airline websites out of the 137 websites investigated have been corrected. Following an additional "health check" process involving independent mystery shopping in March 2009 on 67 major airlines, 52 airlines have either been given a "clean bill of health" and undertaken to maintain the same standards or immediately responded to the Commission's consultation with undertakings to remedy outstanding issues (see lists below). The health check process checked websites against a comprehensive 14 point checklist, which was previously agreed with the airline industry. The Commission is now working to put in place an industry wide agreement to provide a level playing field for airlines across the EU and to maintain sites to a high standard.
"EU Consumer Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva said: This Europe-wide airline investigation is changing the face of airline websites across the EU. There is no room for complacency; there is more work to be done. But this first pan European enforcement investigation has shown it has real "teeth "and can deliver. The next step is an industry wide agreement, and we will continue to monitor developments in the sector closely."
Vice President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Transport said, "Applying full price transparency is an obligation under the air services regulation. It is a duty for airlines to impose high standards across the industry; it is our responsibility to ensure that all players respect the same rules. This is of first and foremost importance for the consumer who wants to compare prices across airlines and make a real choice."
1. Results of the 2007 Airline Ticket Selling Sweep Investigation
Enforcement actions have now been completed in 85% of cases. Of the 137 websites investigated representing about 80 companies, 115 have now been corrected (see summary table in attached MEMO/09/238 showing the enforcement data as of end March 2009.)
2. The airlines health-check study
The Health Check process, aimed to comprehensively monitor the overall situation in the area of online air ticket sales taking into consideration also the entry into force of two new pieces of EU legislation enhancing consumer protection since the first sweep checks in September 2007 (Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, Air Services Regulation). On the basis of a 14-point checklist agreed with the airline industry (see MEMO/09/238) the health check looked at the 7 most important airline websites in all 27 Member States – covering 67 airlines and approximately 339 million passengers in total. The results of the consultation process carried out by the Commission on the basis of the findings of the study, including commitments given by airlines, are summarised below. (see table Annex 1 to press release)
What happens next?
Table setting out Results of Commission's consultation with airlines based on the health check study.
Airlines meeting all the standards of the health check and giving a commitment to maintain their webpages at this level
Airlines providing commitments that issues raised by the health check have already been addressed or will be addressed shortly to ensure that all standards are fully met
 The health check is a fact-finding study looking at the overall situation in the airline industry. Its findings have given rise to a political initiative of the Commission in order to improve compliance with the items on the checklist. These findings and the follow-up activities of the Commission do not constitute the allegation of an infringement. Only national enforcement authorities are in a position to formally investigate infringements.