Airlines operating in the UK need to comply with a range of consumer law, some of which applies specifically to
aviation and some which applies generally to all businesses. This includes legislation relating to price transparency,
passenger rights during flight disruption, access to air travel for passengers with reduced mobility, unfair contract
terms and requirements to trade fairly.
Please see below for information on legal requirements and the CAA’s enforcement powers.
The European Commission has published guidelines to clarify the existing rules and facilitate their
application across the EU.
We have issued guidance on our approach to enforcing consumer law. The guidance aims to inform our stakeholders, (businesses and their advisers, consumers, consumer groups, and other interested parties) on how we will use our consumer powers.
We have also published prioritisation principles that explain our approach in deciding what is the most important work to do in the areas of consumer protection, competition law and economic regulation.
The CAA is responsible for compliance and enforcement with European law providing rights to disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility. View the European Legislation and “ Interpretative guidelines” on application of the Regulation. The legislation is enacted in the UK through The Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2014.
The CAA has published guidance for airports on setting, publishing and monitoring Quality Standards under the Regulation.
The legislation places obligations on airports and airlines to provide access to air travel for PRMs, subject to some safety and security issues.
These include obligations on:
Under Section 83 of the Civil Aviation Act 2012 airports and airlines are required to “publish information for the benefit” of passengers. The CAA requires airlines and airports to publish key information relevant to passengers with reduced mobility on their websites.
This subject areas for the information have been specified by the CAA and should be presented on a single webpage one click away from the home page of the website or on webpages directly accessible from a single 'landing' webpage one click away from the home page. The information should be presented in a clear and easy to understand way and the design of websites should take into consideration existing international guidelines on website accessibility.
We have published a report on how UK airports have performed in terms of the quality of assistance provided to disabled persons and those with reduced mobility for the year April 2015 to 31 March 2016.
The CAA is responsible for compliance and enforcement with the European law which provides rights to passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled or a flight is overbooked.
Airlines will also need to ensure they comply with the English and European case law that has been developed on a range of aspects of the legislation. The European Commission publishes information on European court judgments, but you should also ensure that you keep up-to-date with the latest developments.
In the English courts, the Court of Appeal has issued two judgments relating to the Regulation. The Jet2.com v Huzar ruling confirmed that technical faults on aircraft are not an extraordinary circumstance and the ruling in Dawson v Thomson Airways Ltd confirmed that passengers have a 6 year period to take their claim to court in England and Wales.
The legislation places obligations on the airline operating the flight to provide:
The CAA has published two compliance reports which deal with different aspects of the Regulation:
We have also published guidance on the types of incidents that may be considered to be an extraordinary circumstance under the legislation.
The CAA List sets out a range of incidents that in our view could fall into this category, it is non-exhaustive and there may be other incidents that could fall under the exemption. In addition airlines will also need to demonstrate that they took all reasonable measures to avoid or mitigate the resulting disruption.
The CAA along with the Competition and Markets Authority are responsible for compliance and enforcement with laws which are applicable to the sale and advertising of flights and holidays.
These laws include:
Businesses should display flight prices clearly and fairly:
Businesses must be clear on which airline will be operating the flight at the start of the booking process. If the operating airline is not known at the time of booking, or the airline changes after the consumer books, the consumers must be informed of the operating airline as soon as it is known.
Businesses must provide clear, accurate information which is easy to understand;
Businesses must act in a professional and diligent way so customers are not disadvantaged or misled, this could include travel agents or airlines not informing passengers of a flight schedule change.
Businesses should include the full registered name and address of the business, VAT number, and their contact details which should include an email address.
In March 2013 the CAA and Office of Fair Trading published joint guidance on the Requirements of Consumer Law Applicable to the Sale and Advertising of Flights and Holidays.
This guidance is aimed at anyone who advertises a flight including travel agents, tour operators, airlines and price comparison websites. A Quick Reference version is also available.
Airlines need to ensure that they comply with the law that prohibits the use of unfair contract terms. A contract term may be considered to be unfair if it creates a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the airline and consumer to the detriment of the consumer. If the CAA believes that unfair terms are being used by airlines, it has the power to take enforcement action.
Unfair terms are not enforceable against the consumer, however only a court can decide whether a term is unfair or not.
The law on contract terms is now included in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
You can also review the Competition and Markets Authority advice on the unfair terms provisions.
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