More consumer law woes for airlines

Last week, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs opened a disciplinary file against a number of low-cost airlines for their hand luggage practices, this week they have initiated the first disciplinary proceedings against several airlines due to the non-existence of a free telephone service or, if it exists, due to the difficulty of access. This implies a breach of legal obligations regarding customer service.

The regulations indicate that this telephone must be accessible to all consumers and that it must be free of charge (geographic or special rate numbers, for example, are not valid). Freephones are those that begin with the 800 or 900 prefixes, called “automatic collect services.”

Air transport, as it is considered a basic service of general interest, requires that provider companies have to have a free customer service telephone number. This rule came into force after the modification made this legislature of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users, with the aim of providing protection to vulnerable consumers.

The sanctions provided for these infractions can be considered as minor or serious infractions and can be sanctioned with fines of between 150 and 10,000 euro, in the case of minor ones, and between 10,001 and 100,000 euro, in the case of serious ones.

In the event that the illicit benefit obtained from the infringing practices exceeded said amounts, the sanctions could reach between two and four times the illicit benefit obtained, for minor infractions, and between four and six times the illicit benefit obtained, for serious ones.