CJEU decides on disclosure of air ticket price components and cancellation fees

A German Consumer Association (Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände) made a test booking on Air Berlin’s website and found that the taxes, charges and fees applicable to the ticket were indicated as being only 1 Euro or 3 Euro while the real taxes, charges and fees must have been much higher. The Consumer Association regarded this practice as misleading.Furthermore, Air Berlin, according to its general conditions of contract, charged a handling fee of 25 Euro for the cancellation of the ticket and deducted this fee form the ticket price to be reimbursed. The Consumer Association regarded this term of Air Berlin’s general conditions of contract as unfair.The Consumer Association filed a cease and desist claim and was successful at first instance (Landgericht Berlin). The appellate court (Kammergericht Berlin) dismissed Air Berlin’s appeal. Upon further appeal of Air Berlin, the German Supreme Court (BGH) referred the matter to the European Court of Justice for preliminary ruling.Air Berlin argued that according to Article23(1) of Regulation 1008/2008, air carriers were not required separately to display the amount of the taxes, airport charges and other charges, surcharges or fees in the event that those items were included in the air fare. The Consumer Association stated that Article23(1) of Regulation No1008/2008 required air carriers to specify the amount of the various components of the final price.With regard to the cancellation fee, Air Berlin referred to the principle of “pricing freedom” as laid down in Article 22 of Regulation 1008/2008.In judgement C-290/16 of July 6, 2017, the CJEU held that the objective of ensuring information and transparency with regard to prices required air carriers to separately disclose all price components as otherwise this objective could not be achieved.Regarding the cancellation fee in question, the Court held that Regulation 1008/2008 would not prevent the national courts from applying national legislation implementing Directive 93/13/EEC on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts. The “pricing freedom” was meant to open up the sector to competition but had to be complemented with adequate safeguards for the interests of the consumers.Full text of judgement in case C-290/16 – Air Berlin available here>>.

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