Airlines are facing legal challenge over refunds

Small palm tree, via Steve Hedley's restitution siteUnder the above headline, Paul Cullen has an excellent piece (sub req’d) on the front page of today’s Irish Times, to the effect that the newly created National Consumer Agency (NCA) is planning a legal challenge aimed at forcing airlines to pay refunds to customers and to display their prices more clearly. The NCA has various airline practices firmly in its sights (and anyone who has been on a plane recently knows exactly what they are), but one line in the article particularly caught my attention:

The airlines are to be asked why … the taxes and charges they collect on behalf of airports are not refunded if a passenger does not fly.

Irish airlines are hardly unique in being slow to refund unincurred taxes and charges (see, for example, the UK’s Air Transport Users Council (AUC) report (pdf) on the issue, and some US stories here and here). One recent online report discussed Ryanair’s less than helpful practices in this area.

Nevertheless, as I have said on this blog before, in my view, as a matter of law, taxes collected but not due must be refunded. In my view, therefore, the NCA has solid legal grounds for this aspect at least of its actions against airlines, and I look forward to further developments in this story!

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