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EU airline Web sites told to improve or be closed
|14 ноября 2007|
Over 200 European Web sites selling airline tickets, including many run by leading airlines, are misleading to consumers and will be shut down if they do not improve, the European Union's consumer chief said on Wednesday.Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva gave airlines such as Ryanair and the owners of the other travel Web sites four months to "get their act together" or face possible closure of their sites.
The order followed the publication of results from an investigation by Brussels into misleading advertising and unfair practices on airline ticket selling Web sites across the 27-member bloc and Norway.
"We discovered that about 50 percent of airline ticket selling Web sites are currently letting Europe's consumers down," Kuneva said in a statement.
"Today I am issuing the strongest possible warning to companies to take swift action to put their house in order. Once the January deadline expires I will not hesitate to go further against companies which are still breaking the law."
The EU's executive European Commission said possible sanctions included "imposing and collecting fines or closing down Web sites".
Web sites are critical for the EU airline travel industry, which Commission figures show caters for over 700 million passengers per year.
The results did not identify any airlines in particular, but the EU executive intends to "name and shame companies concerned" in four months' time, Kuneva said.
Last month, Spain's consumer rights watchdog said it had found misleading information in seven out of 12 airline ticket Web sites including Ryanair. A Commission source told Reuters Europe's biggest low-cost airline "was on the radar".
The Spanish authorities also found faults with Spanish carriers Vueling, Iberia and Spainair.
"Ryanair hasn't been contacted by the EU Commission as part of this alleged investigation but we would welcome any proposals by the Commission to force Europe's high fare airlines to match Ryanair's fares," Ryanair's head of communications, Peter Sherrard, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The probe was carried out in 15 EU states and Norway and took place from September 24 to September 28. Of the 446 Web sites investigated, 226 "were flagged as in some way not respecting consumer protection law", the report said.
The Brussels investigation, known as a "consumer sweep", focused on unfair pricing, hidden charges and terms and conditions not translated properly.
Belgium had the worst number of incidents, with 46 of 48 Web sites investigated found to be at fault. Of the 20 Web sites probed in Austria, none was found to break EU consumer rules.