Refund warning for airlines over taxes on unused flights
AIRLINES that refuse to reimburse passengers for taxes and charges for unused flights could face legal action, the National Consumer Agency (NCA) is warning.
The agency's chief executive Ann Fitzgerald says time is running out for airlines that levy high administration charges to reimburse fees.
She made the remarks as the agency moves to become a one-stop shop for consumer information on financial matters, by taking over this role from the Financial Regulator.
At about €70 for a return flight, consumers are losing millions of euro each year in taxes and fees for unused flights because all airlines make it too expensive and difficult for them to claim back their entitlements.
"We would give airlines one last shot at re-addressing the situation whereby it's either uneconomical or consumers are refused refunds of taxes and charges. And if that one last shot does not succeed we would have the option of going to court to ask a judge to decide on the issue," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"We are near endgame on this," she added. All airlines were guilty of making it difficult for passengers to get this money back, and it was a pan-European issue that nobody had addressed, she said.
The NCA also pledged to make banking and financial costs for consumers more transparent as it takes over the Financial Regulator's duties in providing public information and education on these issues.
The NCA handled about 70,000 calls a year on general issues of consumer concern, while the Financial Regulator took 24,000 calls on financial issues, but it made more sense to have a one-stop shop for information as consumers did not divide up their wallets according to government agency, Ms Fitzgerald said.
About 20 staff have been redeployed on secondment to the NCA to make this shift, and it is hoped that the service will continue to be funded through a levy on financial institutes collected by the Central Bank.
The NCA has given up on its plans to run a constantly updated price-comparison website on grocery prices because the supermarkets do not provide the information required.
"We are satisfied that there is competition in the overall sector, so we are going to start focusing on individual sectors within groceries," she said.
This would allow them run more frequent surveys of prices for different categories of products, such as baby products, detergents or chilled food.