Airlines could be forced to tell customers about hidden fees in crackdown

Airlines could face a crackdown on hidden fees to stop them tempting customers in with low prices and then hiking up the final sale point.

As part of a new government plan to improve transparency for people shopping online, a consultation has been launched on rooting out so-called drip pricing, where only part of a product’s price is originally advertised but with hidden obligatory fees pushing up the final cost.

The government is considering whether to ban the practice, which costs online UK consumers £1.6 billion a year. The method is most widespread by companies including airlines. It is used by 54% of providers in the entertainment industry, 56% in hospitality, and 72% of firms in the transport and communication sectors.

Airlines offer a great number of extras at the booking stage, from speedy boarding and checking cabin bags to seat selection, which usually come at a price. There may also be unexpected charges at the airport if you don’t follow a carrier’s terms and conditions, such as forgetting to check-in online with budget carriers including Ryanair.

Last week a family of seven told the Mirror how they’d been forced to pay close to £500 to the airline after they failed to check-in online, and ended up having to check-in at the airport.

Angry Passenger Complaining To Staff At Airport Check In
The proposals could protect consumers from hidden fees
Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has now launched a six week consultation into such methods, which will look at how it can improve transparency around how prices are displayed. The DBT said the tactic has also been used for products including train tickets and food deliveries.

The intended effect would be that information about mandatory fees would have to be presented to consumers at the start of the purchasing process, meaning they’d be less likely to embark on lengthy spending journeys where the end price is significantly higher than the one originally advertised.

Labour has previously proposed making such a change. The Government is also launching a consultation on measures to prevent fake reviews online, which could see that practice added to the same list.

Business and trade minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Today’s measures will help people keep hold of their hard-earned cash and ensure they have the clearest and most accurate information upfront before they make a purchase.

“From the shelves of supermarkets to digital trolleys, modern-day shopping provides a great wealth of choice. But fake reviews and hidden fees can make those choices increasingly confusing and leaves customers unsure about what product is right for them.

“We’ll be listening to industry to ensure these new regulations work for businesses too and don’t generate unnecessary burdens, while at the same time providing a crucial safety net for consumers and their cash.”

Rishi Sunak has said the proposals will help “ease the burden on the cost of living”. The Prime Minister was asked how much of an impact the plans to improve price transparency will have, since inflation and interest rates continue to be high.

Mr Sunak told reporters: “Well, the best way to help people with the cost of living is to halve inflation. That’s why it’s our number one priority and we’re making good progress. But I also became concerned earlier this year about the scale of things like hidden fees, fake online reviews, drip pricing, all things which contribute to an extra cost on shoppers of about a billion pounds a year.

“I didn’t think that was fair. And that’s why we’re announcing today a set of consultations which will help us crack down on those practices, all of which will go to just helping to ease the burden on the cost of living for families alongside my priority to halve inflation.”

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