Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 09:49 UK

EU issues airline website threat

Travellers at Heathrow airport (file pic)
Some 700 million passengers book flights online each year in the EU

The EU's consumer commissioner has warned she will punish airlines that fail to improve their online booking websites within a year.

One-third of European consumers are being misled or cheated when they buy flights online, an EU study found.

The commission investigation found consumers had to wade through confusing and unfair pricing and hidden charges.

Meglena Kuneva said that despite earlier warnings, "serious and persistent problems" remain.

"My message to industry is clear: act now or we will act," she said.

"We will need to see credible evidence of improvement to clean up these sales and marketing practices in the airline sector by 1 May next year or we will be left with no choice but to intervene."

Some 700 million passengers book their air travel online each year, according to commission figures.

The EU issued its warning after many airlines failed to change their websites following an investigation in November 2007.

Websites, the study found, were failing to show taxes and charges, and refusing to advertise the lowest fare prominently.

More than half of the 226 websites found to have breached EU consumer rules in the initial study had resolved the issues identified by the commission but around 80 had not, the commission said.

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