US regulator fines Virgin Atlantic over web pricing

Virgin Atlantic has been fined $50,000 by the US Department of Transportation for deceptive online price advertising.

The US regulator said the airline displayed air fares without government taxes and fees.

To see taxes and fees, consumers had to scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the fine print.

That violated US DoT rules requiring any advertising that includes a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all carrier-imposed surcharges.

US transportation secretary Ray LaHood said: “When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have a right to know the full price they will have to pay.

“We expect airlines to treat their passengers fairly and will take enforcement action when our price advertising rules are violated.”

Virgin Atlantic’s website violated US DoT rules requiring any advertising that includes a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all carrier-imposed surcharges, according to the ruling.

“The only exception currently allowed is government-imposed taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges, which may be stated separately from the advertised fare but must be clearly disclosed in the advertisement so that passengers can easily determine the full price they must pay,” it said.

“Internet fare listings may disclose these separate taxes and fees through a prominent link next to the fare stating that government taxes and fees are extra, and the link must take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees are displayed. The rules apply to both US and foreign carriers as well as ticket agents.”

Carriers and agents will be required to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised fare from January 24, 2012 under US DoT recently adopted consumer rules.

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