Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 Is Thinly Veiled Special-interest Legislation
July 23, 2014, WASHINGTON, DC – Consumer groups appended to this statement today called on Members of the U.S. House Transportation Committee to answer consumer questions regarding why they support H.R. 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014. The bill was passed out of Committee without debate or input from consumer or business travel groups. H.R. 4156 would harm consumers by reversing a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rule implemented in 2012 as a cure to misleading airline advertising.
H.R. 4156 is premised upon airlines’ major misrepresentation that the DOT rule is forcing them to hide federal taxes and fees in advertisements. Indeed, in rejecting airlines’ 2012 federal court challenge to that DOT rule - that airlines now hope to use Congress to override - the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rightly sided with DOT observing: “Based on common sense and over three decades of experience and complaints, DOT concluded that it was deceitful and misleading when the most prominent price listed by an airline is anything other than the total, final price of air travel.”
Additional Court of Appeals’ comments leave zero doubt about airlines’ fallacious allegation:
“Contrary to the airlines’ repeated suggestions, nothing in the Airfare Advertising Rule requires airlines to hide the taxes….”
“…the Airfare Advertising rules does not prohibit airlines from saying anything; it just requires them to disclose the total, final price and to make
it the most prominent figure in their advertisements.”
“Nothing in the rule prohibits the airlines from separately alerting the public to the taxes imposed on air transportation….”
“The airlines can even call attention to taxes and fees in their advertisements; what they cannot do is call attention to them by making them
more prominent than the total, final price the customer must pay.”
Consumers’ Questions For Transportation Committee Members Who Voted For H.R. 4156
1. Why would Members allow airlines, of all parties, to write “consumer protection” legislation?
2. Why would some Members who are ardent free market advocates support a bill that disadvantages the consumer through obscuring prices in a way that economists agree can distort functioning markets?
3. Why would Members who are normally in the consumer’s corner allow a bill to be passed out of committee after just minutes of discussion without securing consumer groups’ input?
4. Why would any Member allow the U.S. DOT’s authority to be undermined - the airlines’ regulator and only guarantor of airline consumer protection?
5. Do pro-consumer Members understand that if airlines succeed in these efforts, then their sights will likely be then trained on overturning DOT’s 3-hour tarmac delay rule and other consumer protections? Further, do Members also understand that such an assault on consumers and a federal agency by the airline industry will be emulated by any number of other industries?
6. Did Members not anticipate the tsunami of unanimously negative press coverage, from around the country including a blistering editorial from The New York Times (http://btcnews.co/1nKV3mU) that would be generated by highly controversial special-interest legislation?
7. Do Members see how by enabling airlines to subvert the long-standing suspension calendar procedure via exceedingly contentious legislation that they would be undercutting their entreaties for respect for the legislative process and enacted laws?
Consumers wishing to ask these and other questions of Members of the House Transportation Committee who voted for the profoundly anti-consumer H.R. 4156 can find a link to their names and contact information in the right sidebar at http://btc.travel.
One House Transportation Committee Member who does not need to be questioned is Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). In voting against H.R. 4156 he saw straight through the lies that the legislation is infected with. Pulling no punches the Congressman told the Associated Press: “The bill is ‘a gift to the airlines... What you're going to see is $200 for the airfare, and then you're going to be shocked when it turns out to really be $250. It's misleading to the consumer. It's just dishonest.’”
Association for Airline Passenger Rights
Business Travel Coalition
Ed Perkins, Consumer Advocate
Business Travel Coalition | Kevin Mitchell | 610-999-9247 | firstname.lastname@example.org
FlyersRights.org | Paul Hudson | 800-662-1859 | Paul@flyersrights.org
Ed Perkins | 541-488-8849 (PDT) | email@example.com