Italy fines Ryanair and Wizz air for charging customers for hand luggage, whilst Spain looks the other way

FACUA believes it outrageous that the Spanish Competition authority still hasn't responded to its complaint against the companies, nor has it imposed strong sanctions on them for the infractions.

Italy fines Ryanair and Wizz air for charging customers for hand luggage, whilst Spain looks the other way

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM, according to its initials in Spanish) has fined airlines Ryanair (three million Euros) and Wizz Air (one million Euros), for "misleading" customers with their new paid hand luggage policies. What's more, the AGCM is giving the two companies 60 days to explain the steps they're going to take to resolve the situation.

This practice "deceives the consumer about the actual price of the ticket, as this no longer includes an essential element of the air transport contract - the large carry-on luggage- in the basic fare", the AGCM’s decision states.

FACUA-Consumers in Action deems it outrageous that Spain's National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC, according to its initials in Spanish) has still not responded to a complaint filed by the association in November for this very reason. In the complaint, the association highlighted that as of the 1st of November, the two airlines have changed their policies so that passengers now have to pay an extra fee of between 5 and 25 Euros per bag to take hang luggage onto the plane, something which was free up until this point.

FACUA demands exemplary sanctions be placed on companies systematically imposing unfair conditions on their customers.

The association believes that taking this commercial approach means that the customer is given biased information on the price of the ticket when comparing potential flight options. As a result, the consumer could be left with a warped perception on the real price of flying with Ryanair and Wizz Air, which could appear to be, other than exceptions, cheaper than flying with the other airlines. The price, however, can vary substantially when adding the extra charges for luggage, leaving it around the same or even exceeding those of their competitors.

In the complaint, FACUA highlighted that Spain's Unfair Competition Act states that "any behaviour that objectively fails to abide by the requirements of good faith shall be deemed unfair", understanding this as that which "significantly distorts or could significantly distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer or of the average member of the target group of the practice in question" in relation to "the selection of an offer, engagement of a good or service and payment of the price".

Similarly, section 5 of the same act deems any conduct which "leads or could lead its targets to an error in judgement and is liable to alter their economic behaviour" to be misleading, when referring to "the price or the manner in which the price is calculated, or the existence of a specific price advantage" and "the need for a service".

Finally, FACUA also reminds readers that they have already reported both Ryanair and Wizz Air to the Spanish Aviation and Safety Agency (AESA, according to its initials in Spanish), on the basis that, in implementing these new policies, they were in breach of Spanish aviation law. The association also requested that the Government put measures into place to stop the policies coming into force, but have yet to receive a reply.