On 6 July 2017, following three unfair commercial practices, Vueling Airlines has been sanctioned by the Italian Competition Authority for a total of 1 million euro.
With the first practice, Vueling has promoted check-in online as a free service, both on the internet and in the communications sent after booking the flight. However, subject to certain conditions, such as the depletion of available seats, it subsequently required consumers to pay an amount of around 15 euro to complete their online check-in procedure. Furthermore, the airline did not even inform passengers that, as an alternative to online check-in, check-in at the airport was available at no charge.
With the second practice, the airline has deceived consumers by promoting the purchase of a discount voucher equal to 25% of the cost of the flight ticket in an ambiguous and misleading way. The discount that consumers would benefit of was only part of the ticket, i.e. the basic tariff net of taxes, administrative costs and other charges. In this way, Vueling did not make the consumer understand the real convenience of the purchase.
Finally, the Italian Competition Authority sanctioned Vueling for the obstacles that passengers faced in the exercise of their contractual rights. In particular, for consumer assistance and complaint requests, consumers were suggested to call a pay phone number, which could cost up to 15 euro per call, without even informing consumers about the existence of a pre-requisite web form on its web site, which, inter alia, did not provide full assistance.
The first two practices were considered to be in contrast with Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Italian Consumer Code, that provide for the transparency and correctness of all information so that consumers can take a conscious commercial decision. In relation to the last practice, the Italian Competition Authority considered it to be contrary to Articles 20, 24 and 25 of the Consumer Code. Following changes to the General Conditions of Carriage and some clarifications, other two disputed commercial practices, namely the no show rule and the credit card surcharge, were considered to be non-existent.