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China Airlines Fined for Violating DOT Price Advertising Rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty against China Airlines for violating the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive advertising of airfares.  The company was assessed an $80,000 civil penalty.

“When passengers shop for air transportation, they have a right to know the full price they’ll be paying,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  “We take our airline price advertising rules seriously and expect carriers to comply with them.”

DOT requires any advertising that includes a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer.  The only exception, which will end on Oct. 24 due to a recently adopted DOT rule, is for government-imposed taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges.  If these taxes and fees are listed separately, the first mention in an advertisement of a fare must clearly disclose that the price does not include these charges and list their amounts. For Internet listings, these taxes and fees may be disclosed through a prominent link next to the stated fare that notes that taxes and fees are extra, and takes viewers directly to a location where the type and amount of the charges are displayed.   Carriers also are specifically required to identify the Sept. 11th security fee of $2.50 for each passenger boarding at a U.S. airport.  The rules apply to both U.S. and foreign carriers as well as ticket agents.

The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that China Airlines’ Web page displayed advertisements for a period of time that did not provide any information on additional taxes and fees, including the Sept. 11th  security fee. Consumers did not learn of the full amount they would pay until just prior to purchasing the fare.

The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2011-0003.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011