Remove hidden fees in online bookings, airlines urged

GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) is calling on the Transport Ministry to address problems plaguing consumers when they buy flight tickets online.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris (pic) said one common problem that consumers face is the pre-selected optional extras such as travel insurance and seat selection, which incur additional costs.

“A person booking the ticket has to untick a box that is accompanied by a statement saying to the effect that if the tick on the box is not removed, then it is assumed that the person has agreed to purchase the travel insurance policy.

“Often this pre-ticked box is buried in a wordy page and is easy to miss.

“When one realises that the insurance cost has been added into the ticket price, it may be impossible to return to that particular page to un-tick it, unless the entire booking process is repeated and by then the price might defer.

“The airline often protects itself with a statement such as ‘I have read and understand the Product Disclosure Statement’,” he told a press conference at the CAP headquarters in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.

In light of this, Mohamed Idris called for airline companies to cease opt-out pricing and that the Transport Ministry consider adopting the United Kingdom’s Consumer Contracts Regulations in banning pre-selected optional extras and protecting consumers from unscrupulous businesses.

“In New Zealand, Jetstar has ceased the opt-out pricing since March this year after the ‘Ditch the Tick’ campaign launched by Consumer NZ with its Australian counterpart, Choice,” he said.

Citing examples, Mohamed Idris suggested that the Credit Shell system used by an airline should be done away with.

“A passenger booked a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Narita, Japan, but was later informed that the flight will be suspended and he was given the option of flying from Kuala Lumpur to Don Muang, Thailand, and from Don Muang to Narita or getting a Credit Shell of the same value paid, which is to be used within 180 days from the date of issuance.

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