(CN) – Internet travel sites cannot force customers to opt out of services that cost extra, such as trip-cancelation insurance, Europe’s high court ruled Thursday.
Aligning itself with the March opinion from a court adviser, the Court of Justice called it a violation of EU law on airfare transparency to require that customers of EBookers.com Deutschland opt out of optional travel arrangement features.
The website’s third-party trip-cancellation insurance is set as a default that customers must deselect, and the price of the insurance is not included in the running total during the transaction as required by the law.
A German consumer protection group sued the Britain-based company over the practice, and the regional high court in Cologne asked the Court of Justice to weigh in on eBookers’ argument that airfare transparency rules apply only to services provided by airlines – not additional options offered by third parties.
The European court’s advocate general advised that opting in is necessary precisely because customers have a choice to accept or reject trip extras.
Judges for the Luxembourg court wrote Thursday that the law specifically requires or travel supplements to prevent customers from being induced to purchase unnecessary extras during the booking process – regardless of whether the extras come from the airlines or a third party.
“If it were permissible to make that protection dependent on the status of the provider of that additional service, by granting protection only where the service was provided by an air carrier, that protection could easily be circumvented and, consequently, the objective in question certainly compromised,” the decision states. “In any event, such a procedure would be incompatible [the law].”
“The concept of ‘optional price supplements’ … must be interpreted as meaning that it covers costs, connected with the air travel, arising from services, such as the flight cancellation insurance at issue in the main proceedings, supplied by a party other than the air carrier and charged to the customer by the person selling that travel, together with the air fare, as part of a total price,” Europe’s high court concluded, remanding the case back to the German court for final judgment.