Ticket agent Airtrade International, doing business as Vayama, was fined $80,000 for violating the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) unfair and deceptive trade practices rule by advertising fares that failed to distinguish between government taxes and fees and charges imposed by the airline.
Vayama also violated DOT’s full fare advertising rule by advertising fares that were rounded down below the actual total fare amount, DOT said. DOT ordered the company to cease and desist from further violations.
“Passengers deserve fair and honest treatment when they fly, and that includes being provided accurate information about their airfares,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines and ticket agents fail to disclose their fares fully and accurately.”
Under DOT’s full-fare advertising rule, an agent must state the entire price to be paid by the consumer, including all mandatory taxes, fees, and airline surcharges in the first price quoted in response to a fare inquiry or search. Airlines and agents do not have to break out the components of the fare, but if they do, the information provided must accurately reflect the nature of the charges included in the airfare, DOT said.
DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that for a period of time in 2013, when a consumer selected a fare from a display of fare options, Vayama displayed the total amount of additional fees under a general “Taxes and Fees” label even though that amount included Vayama’s own surcharge which could range between $5 and $50. Therefore, consumers were led to believe that Vayama charges were government “Taxes and Fees.”
In addition, in 2012 and 2013, Vayama’s homepage advertised fares that were rounded down to the whole dollar amount below the actual total fare amount, in violation of Federal rules requiring that all advertised fares display the exact fare or round up to an amount greater than the exact fare.