The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined online travel agency Orbitz Worldwide $60,000 for violating rules against deceptive price advertising.
Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying for air fares, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press release. We established airline price advertising rules to protect the consumer and will take enforcement action when these rules are violated.
According to the DOT, earlier this year, Orbitz's homepage advertisements failed to provide additional information on taxes and fees. Consumers didn't find information on taxes and fees until they clicked on the advertisements and scrolled to the fine print.
The rules say they can break taxes and fees out separately but that there must be a prominent link that takes consumers directly to that information, DOT spokesperson Bill Mosley told msnbc.com. The information was a little harder to find than we'd expect them to make it.
In addition, Orbitz showed advertisements of fares no longer available to consumers by the time they selected them.
Under federal laws, the full price including air-carrier surcharges must be displayed in advertising. Government per-person taxes and fees can be stated separately, if a clear link is provided.
Orbitz claimed a glitch in the advertising system that was fixed shortly after. Orbiz also cited found fares (low prices found by other consumers) as a reason prices were no longer available.
Orbitz is not the only travel site fined this year for price advertising violations. Expedia was fined $29,000 in March for failing to disclose taxes and fees.
In this case, Expedia displayed a linked plus sign next to the fare, bringing customers to a page outlining fees. The DOT found that this was insufficient because there was no text with the plus sign indicating that this is where additional information could be found.
Airlines have also been penalized for deceptive advertising. JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic Airways were both fined $50,000 this year.