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ACM imposes symbolic fine on travel agent for failing to inform consumers at beginning of pandemic

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine on travel booking site Tix. Consumers that wished to get refunds for flights cancelled due to COVID-19 had to pay 55 euros. Tix did not inform consumers about this fee in advance. As a result, consumers had to pay for the cancellation service without having consented to it. This is not allowed. ACM takes into account the extraordinary circumstances that the travel industry was dealing with at the time, and has therefore decided to impose a symbolic fine of 1,000 euros.

Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding refunds of cancelled flights. Against that backdrop, Tix offered a cancellation service, without informing consumers in advance about the costs or seeking consent from consumers. Considering the extraordinary circumstances at the time, we have imposed a symbolic fine.”

What was this case about?

At the height of the pandemic, airlines cancelled their flights en masse, while consumers asked for refunds from those airlines. Airlines referred consumers that had purchased their tickets from travel agents to those travel agents for the refunds. Airlines paid the refunds to the travel agents, which, in turn, had to pay these refunds to consumers. This procedure was followed by Tix as well. However, Tix deducted 55 euros per booking, even though this had not been discussed with consumers in advance. This is not allowed. Consumers only have to pay for a service if they have been clearly informed about it in advance, and have consented to it. However, considering the chaotic situation  at the beginning of the pandemic, ACM has decided to impose only a symbolic fine for the violation of this rule. In mid-March 2020, Tix adjusted its general terms and conditions accordingly. 

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