International numbers included

FACUA reports 20 airlines for using 902 prefix numbers and other high cost lines for customer service

The association requests consumer authorities to impose fines considering the breach of consumer rights legislation. FACUA prepares new reports against other sectors companies.

FACUA reports 20 airlines for using 902 prefix numbers and other high cost lines for customer service

FACUA-Consumers in Action has reported 20 airlines for using 902 prefix numbers and other high cost numbers for customer service, something that breaches current legislation.

The reported companies are Iberia, British Airways, American Airlines, Alitalia, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Norweigan Air, Easyjet, Vueling, Transavia, Ryanair, Air Berlin, Volotea, Thomson, Monarch Airlines, BMI Regional, Meridiana Fly, Aer Lingus, Condor and Wizzair.

The association points out that General Law for the Defence of Consumer Rights says in article 21 that costumer service lines for those sectors where it is not mandatory to have a free phone (telecom companies and electricity and gas suppliers) cannot be "a higher cost than the basic tariff", so if they imply a payment, it is only admissible that they are mobile or landline regular numbers. This law transposes to Spanish legislation the European Consumer Rights Directive (Directive 2011/83, of 25 October 2011).

FACUA has lodged these reports to the consumer authorities of those autonomous communities where the companies have their headquarters and also where they operate. In the case of four of them, which have no offices in Spain, the association has submitted its complaints only to those regions where they operate.

This is the case for Ryanair (The Basque Country, Murcia, Madrid, Catalonia, Castille-Leon, Cantabria, Canary Islands, Comunidad Valenciana, the Balearic Islands, Aragon and Andalusia), Monarch (Catalonia, Canary Islands, Comunidad Valenciana, Balearic Islands and Andalusia), Thomson (in the same five regions) and Transavia (Balearic Islands, Comunidad Valenciana, Canary Islands, Andalusia, Catalonia and Madrid).

FACUA highlights that the 20 reported airlines breach the law because they force consumers to call special rate numbers or foreign numbers in some cases.

Consumers have no alternative

15 of the reported airlines use special rate numbers (901 and 902 prefixes) for information, customer service or booking assistance. FACUA notes that 12 of these companies (Iberia, Vueling, Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Ryanair, Alitalia, Condor, Easyjet, Lufthansa, SAS, Transavia, American Airlines and Norweigan) exclusively offer these numbers for all consumer calls, without offering any other kind of number. Also, Transavia includes a mobile phone number (654 481253) that can be texted to using the WhatsApp app, but it does not allow calls.

FACUA has also detected that two companies, Wizzair and Volotea, offer a especially high rate number (807 prefix). Despite the company also has a regular landline number (937370069) for "telephone support", this number only gives information in Catalan, and it’s the 807 number the one that is answered in Spanish.

On the other hand, FACUA shows that five of the companies give customer service through international phone numbers, located in United Kingdom (BMI Regional, Monarch and Thomson), Germany (British Airways) and Italy (Meridiana).

Illegal use, according to the CJEU advocate general

Last November, the advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Maciej Szpunar established that it is illegal using this kind of high cost lines. He confirmed this after the Regional Court of Stuttgart (Germany) put forward a preliminary question to the European Court to determine whether consumer rights regulations prohibit the use of customer service numbers whose rates exceed those for calls to fixed area codes or to standard mobile numbers.

The association requests the consumer authorities to impose fines to the reported companies, and force them to substitute these high cost lines for national landline, mobile or free numbers.

In the following weeks, FACUA will also report many other companies of the banking, insurance and telecommunication sector, along with retail premises and energy suppliers due to the same irregularity.