Monday, 9 August 2010

US-DOT revising airline consumer protection rules

Your chance to be heard: The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently inviting public comments on a variety of proposed changes to the DOT's consumer protection rules.

I've been severely critical of the DOT's lax enforcement of its existing consumer protection rules, and its failure to address the key regulatory issues for airline ticket purchasers.

The current DOT rulemaking continues to ignore what I consider the most important issues that the DOT ought to be addressing, as the sole regulatory or enforcement agency with authority to protect travellers in the USA against fraudulent and deceptive airline advertising and other practices. But it is nonetheless a significant set of half-steps forward, albeit on issues I consider of largely secondary importance for the DOT's "Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division". Under the Obama Administration, this office within DOT is still controlled by holdovers from the Reagan Revolution: devout believers in deregulation and "free markets" who have actively obstructed any meaningful oversight of airlines' deceptive practices. Any genuine aviation consumer protection initiative from DOT is vast progress, brought about only by public pressure such as that being applied by the Consumer Travel Alliance (with which I work as a policy analyst).

Under pressure from the airlines, DOT last week extended the public comment period on the proposed rules, which was originally scheduled to end today, until 23 September 2010. You can make comments either directly to the DOT at Regulations.gov under docket DOT-OST-2010-0140 (the best way to ensure your comments are considered by the DOT), or you can submit comments informally and indirectly at RegulationRoom.org, a project of the Cornell University Law School which is collecting public suggestions nand votes and will combined them into joint comments submitted to DOT by the Cornell project.

Tell the DOT this is a good first step, but not nearly enough. If you want ideas, I've identified some key omissions from the proposed rules in my comments submitted today to DOT, and some other priority issues for DOT action in previous articles.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 9 August 2010, 07:29 ( 7:29 AM) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I hate to get caught up in debates about words, but I don't think "free markets" necessarily allow for deception. Fraud is still fraud. I don't even know why airlines are allowed to overbook. No other business can avoid legal trouble when they sell things they don't have. But in the meantime, the parts of the industry that are free are seeing innovation that I like. For example, Being able to charge for bags or meals means my wife and I - who travel with snacks and carry-on only - no longer are subsidizing other travelers. We can now find real deals on airlines that make their profits off of travelers who want to bring two suitcases and drink and eat onboard. That's a result of free markets. Prosecute fraud, but why hamstring the airlines too much before the fact if that just adds to the cost for consumers (as it usually does)?

Posted by: , 24 August 2010, 07:46 ( 7:46 AM)
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