ebookers.com Deutschland GmbH v Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, European Court of Justice
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that any business selling airline flights should make cancellation insurance an “opt-in” option rather than an “opt-out” option. Consumer groups in Germany brought an action against e-bookers, the online travel agency, after e-bookers, by default, included cancellation insurance in the final price shown to customers before a booking was made.
The ECJ ruled that cancellation insurance was an “optional price supplement” that was not compulsory or necessary for the customer in order for the customer to book their flight. Whilst e-bookers gave customers the option to “opt-out” of the cancellation insurance at the bottom of the booking screen, this was not enough; the cancellation insurance should not have been included in the first place, and should have been offered on an “opt-in”, rather than an “opt-out”, basis.
The ruling shows that airlines and travel agents need to take great care in what is automatically included in flight pricing; whilst certain charges that the customer cannot avoid, such as fuel surcharges and applicable taxes, can be included in the price automatically (provided that a full price breakdown is given before a booking is made), anything that could be considered as “optional” should be offered on an “opt-in” basis only.
Following the recent investigation by the Office of Fair Trading into airlines and the (non) inclusion of credit and debit card charges in the headline price shown to customers, the ECJ’s ruling brings a further focus on the airline industry and the sale of flights.