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OFT step in and rule that Airline headline prices must include debit card surcharges

The OFT (Office of Fair Trading) have announced today (5th July 2012) that following an OFT enforcement action,  12 airlines have had to agree to include debit card surcharges in the headline price. These charges have until now been held back until the end of the purchase process and usually after a raft of “optional extras” such as hold luggage (£50 for 15kg on Ryanair), insurance, reserved seating, cabin bag, sports/musical/infant equipment, insurance and sometimes car hire and hotel options. It's no wonder that the OFT have stepped in.

The airlines who were subject to an OFT consumer law investigation and have now agreed to change their practices are Aer Lingus, BMI Baby, Eastern Airways, easyJet, Flybe, German Wings, Jet2, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson (TUI) and Wizz Air.
The OFT believe that the debit card is “the online equivalent of cash” which means that the headline price is indeed the price that we should pay.
And another small victory won by the OFT on our behalf is where credit card charges are concerned. The OFT recognised that processing credit cards can be costly and can therefore continue to impose surcharges but insisting that “it is critical that these charges are transparent and not sprung on shoppers towards the end of the booking process”. So, as part of the OFT's enforcement action the airlines agreed to “make surcharges for credit cards more transparent so that these charges will be clearer and easier to find during the booking process.”
The government have also taken note of the OFT's recommendations and have announced and have “announced plans to bring forward legislation to ban excessive debit and credit card surcharges  across the economy.” This is all great news especially as the OFT have estimated that debit card and credit card surcharges within the airline sector cost consumers a staggering £300 million per annum.
Clive Maxwell, the OFT's Chief Executive, said: 'This is a great outcome for the millions of people who buy flights online. It is important that the cost presented when they search for a flight is realistic and that they are not surprised by extra charges. Otherwise it is harder for them to shop around for the best deal.

"Because of our enforcement action, most airlines have already made their headline prices and other payment charges easier to understand by changing their systems and

processes. The rest will complete changes in the coming months. We made it clear from the start that we would use all of our enforcement powers, including court action if necessary, but are pleased to have reached agreement with the airlines before court proceedings were required.'

On checking the Easyjet and Ryanair sites this morning we found that Ryanair has yet to make the OFT's recommended changes which are due to come into place by August 1st 2012. However it seems Easyjet are already making us aware of the charges for debit and credit cards upfront (ref. Image to right).
A big brownie point for Easyjet then? 

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