Answer given by Mr Kyprianou on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is aware of this situation and has already taken action by improving legislation at the EU level.
Currently, EU law does not require that traders always indicate the full selling price including VAT, other taxes and other charges for services such as air transport. The scope of application of the Unit Pricing Directive(1) is limited to products and does not apply to services. Several Member States have voluntarily extended the scope of this directive to cover services also.
However, EU legislation already prevents traders from misleading consumers regarding the advertised price, including services. Such practices could fall under the existing Misleading Advertising Directive(2). The practices are to be assessed on a case-to-case basis by the national authorities and courts.
As far as package tours are concerned, Article 3.1 of the Package Travel Directive(3) states that price and any other conditions must not contain any misleading information.
The Commission has taken further steps to remedy the situation, including for services, by proposing the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive(4), which was adopted on 11 May 2005. The national laws transposing this directive will be applicable in December 2007 in the Member States. The directive requires that, if a trader makes an invitation to purchase, which is a commercial communication indicating the price of the good or service being advertised, information relating to the price should include taxes. As to the charges, if they refer to services (e.g. ticketing or handling of luggage), which in any event will have to be paid by the consumer, they will also have to be included in the price. In addition to that, traders will have to inform consumers upfront as to delivery costs, wherever this is relevant. According to this directive, where the price cannot reasonably be calculated in advance because of the nature of the good or service, the consumer must be informed of the manner in which the price is calculated. The key issue for consumer protection is to ensure that consumers are adequately informed before taking a decision to purchase.
In addition, a study on pricing practices in the air transport sector is currently being carried out on behalf of the Commission. On the basis of this study, the Commission will examine whether any sector-specific rules are needed to complement the abovementioned general rules. In the context of the foreseen revision of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2409/92 of 23 July 1992 on fares and rates for air services(5), the Commission is also considering clarifying the definition used for fares and rates by including applicable taxes and charges.
Indeed, services are increasingly of a cross-border nature and the Commission is committed to enhance the internal market for services. The Commission is currently reviewing the consumer protection regulatory framework. It will publish shortly a report on the Unit Pricing Directive including questions for public consultation. This will provide an opportunity to further explore the potential to regulate horizontally at the EU level the obligations to indicate the full prices for services.
Council Directive 84/450/EEC of 10 September 1984 relating to the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning misleading advertising, OJ L 250, 19.9.1984.
Directive 2005/29/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Council Directive 84/450/EEC, Directives 97/7/EC and 2002/65 of the Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the Parliament and of the Council (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive), OJ L 149, 11.6.2005.