CJEU: Indication of air fares – final prices must be shown at all times
In its judgement of 15 January 2015 (C-573/13) the CJEU ruled in favour of more price transparency regarding air fares and further strengthens the rights of consumers when booking flights through a computerised booking system. The request for a preliminary ruling from the BGH concerned the interpretation of Art. 23 (1) (2) of Regulation (EC) No 1088/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community (Regulation), in particular how air fares need to be indicated to meet the Regulation’s requirement.
The parties in the main proceedings were Air Berlin on the one side and The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband VZBV) on the other side. Air Berlin’s booking system was organised in such a way that after selecting a journey and a date, the customer would find a table listing all possible flight connections for the chosen date. However, the table was not showing the final prices of all listed flights, but only the final fare for a flight indicated by Air Berlin as the cheapest or for one specifically chosen by the customer. Therefore the customer could only see the final price of the chosen flight, that was shown below the table. The VZBV was of the opinion that this is a violation of Art. 23 I 2 of the Regulation and sought an injunction.
The CJEU now took the same view as the VZBV. The final price to be paid by the customer (taxes, charges, fees) must be indicated – in the context of a computerised booking system – whenever the prices of air services are shown, including when they are shown for the first time. Further the Regulation is to be interpreted in such a way that the final price must be indicated not only for the air service specifically selected by the customer, but also for each air service in respect of which the fare is shown.
This decision is in line with the objective of the Regulation, which is that price transparency must enable customers to compare effectively the prices of air services of different air carriers. The customer should be able to see the air fare at first sight, including all kind of costs.