The advisor to Europe’s top court has hit out at the practice of online travel agents automatically opting customers in to travel insurance when purchasing flights.

A German consumer protection association brought ebookers.com before a German court for automatically including travel insurance in its total price of travel. The case was subsequently referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) where the court’s advisor, the Advocate General, considered the relevant air services regulations, which are designed to provide greater transparency in the market for air travel fares. These Regulations provide that those selling tickets must always indicate the final price - a price which is not to include optional price supplements unless accepted by the customer on an “opt-in” basis at the start of the booking process.  

The Advocate General noted that travel insurance and other price supplements should be offered on an “opt-in” basis rather than on an “opt-out” basis as the automatic inclusion of optional extras undermines the purpose of the air services regulations. He also observed that requiring that such services be provided on an “opt-in” basis is a matter of consumer protection in that it prevents consumers from being induced into buying extra services they do not expressly request.  

The Advocate General’s opinion will now be considered by the CJEU and, pending its decision, should sound as a cautionary note to the travel agents sector.