Ettsa files formal complaint against EC

Ettsa files formal complaint against EC

The European Technology and Travel Services Association (Ettsa) has made a formal complaint to the European Ombudsman over the European Commission’s failure to enforce EU law against Lufthansa.

Ettsa complained to the EC in September 2015 after Lufthansa imposed a €16 surcharge on GDS bookings, arguing the airlines group was in breach of the EU Code of Conduct on computerised reservation systems (CRSs).

Only in May this year did the EC inform the association of its intention to reject the complaint, arguing that “the code no longer reflects market reality and may be revised”.

Ettsa, which represents leading GDSs and online travel agents (OTAs) in Europe, has summitted two complaints to the Ombudsman.

It argues the EC “failed to act within a reasonable time limit, taking more than 30 months to send a short and unsubstantiated pre-rejection letter”.

The association also accuses the EC of “abdicating its competencies and ignoring the fact that any changes to the Code of Conduct would require the approval of the [European] Parliament and Council”.

It notes: “The Commission did not deny Lufthansa’s conduct is illegal but stopped short of enforcing EU law.”

In its complaint to the Ombudsman, Ettsa alleges the Lufthansa Group introduced the surcharges “in an attempt to force consumers to use their biased website”.

It suggests that between 2015 and 2018 “consumers paid hundreds of millions of euros in surcharges to Lufthansa”.

Ettsa’s compliant points out other major airlines – IAG-owned British Airways and Iberia, and Air France-KLM – have followed suit in imposing charges on GDS bookings.

It accuses Lufthansa of “discriminatory practices” and says: “The Commission’s inaction is bad for industry, bad for innovation, bad for competition, bad for the single market, and bad for respect for Community law.

“The only winner is Lufthansa and every large airline adopting similar anticompetitive practices.”

The association accuses the EC of “tacitly giving the thumbs-up to Lufthansa’s unfair conduct, which consists of weakening the effectiveness of neutral distribution channels used by consumers to compare prices of different airlines.

“This undermines transparency and ultimately leads to price hikes.”

Ettsa secretary general Christoph Klenner said: “Our complaint is only a first step. We also call on the Directorate-General for Competition to look into Lufthansa’s practices and those of other carriers that have followed its lead.

“The EU’s regulatory framework does not allow for the sort of discrimination Lufthansa is using to punish consumers and push its competitors out of the market.”

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in EU institutions. It is open to EU citizens, businesses and associations to make complaints.

The Ombudsman cannot make legally binding decisions, but EU authorities usually follow any recommendations.

Emily O’Reilly, the former National Ombudsman and National information Commissioner of Ireland, took office as European Ombudsman in October 2013.

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