DOT Fines Travelocity for Violating DOT Price Advertising Rule
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in its campaign to get online websites, travel agents, online travel agencies (OTA) and airlines to post full fares including taxes surcharges and fees, has fined mega-OTA Travelocity $180,000 for violating the government’s rule on full-fare advertising by failing to include fuel surcharges and other fees in advertised airfares and ordered it to cease and desist from further violations. Last week the DOT fined TripAdvisor for violating similar price advertising rules.
“Many consumers choose their flights based on price, which is why we require all airfare ads to include the full price consumers will have to pay,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will continue to make sure that airlines and travel agents comply with our price advertising rules and will take enforcement action when they do not.”
The DOT said an investigation in September 2011 by its Aviation Enforcement Office found that Travelocity’s “flexible dates tool” did not always include fuel surcharges that were part of many international airfares. Consumers searching for flights were shown fares from lowest to highest, resulting in fares that omitted the surcharges being listed above those in which the surcharges were included.
In addition, the consumer was informed only on the final page before purchasing the ticket that some itineraries required a paper ticket with a minimum additional delivery fee of $29.95. Consumers were shown the full price, including the fuel surcharges and ticket fees, only after selecting an itinerary. As a result, some consumers may have purchased airfares on dates and carriers that they might not have chosen if they had had accurate fare information.
According to the DOT, these ads violated the department’s rules requiring all carrier-imposed surcharges and fees to be included in every advertised fare. Prior to new price advertising rules that took effect on Jan. 26, the only charges airlines could omit from the advertised fare were certain government-imposed taxes. Under DOT’s new price advertising rule, carriers and ticket agents must show the total price, including all government taxes and fees, in every advertised fare. The rules apply to travel agents, OTAs, and airlines.
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