What are our representatives thinking? Legalizing drip pricing is madness


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed H.R. 4156 that they mistakenly, or cynically, call the Airfares Transparency Act of 2014. These representatives listed below decided to strip consumer protections against misleading and deceptive pricing by airlines.

Sign our petition now being circulated through Change.org.

These representatives, without any debate, any hearings, any consumer input or any discussions with other members of the aviation industry such as travel agents, online travel agents, central reservation systems and corporate travel managers, moved this bill out of committee that will legalize bait-and-switch advertising and drip pricing for the airline industry.

These members arrogantly decided that they know better than the thousands of industry association and citizens who commented on the bill back in 2012 when it was actively being crafted. And, they think they know better than the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Supreme Court, both of which turned back airline lawsuits attempting to change the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.

Amazingly, this vote to strip consumers of protection and transparent prices was passed with bipartisan cosponsors. It doesn’t appear that either the members or their staff understand bait-and-switch advertising, or, even more disconcerting, they understand it perfectly well and have purposely crafted the bill to make this practice that has been cited as anti-consumer by DOT and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) legal only for the airline industry.

The FTC describes “drip” pricing as a pricing technique in which firms advertise only part of a product’s price and reveal other charges as the customer goes through the buying process.

Let Congress know that you have no interest in allowing airlines to advertise deceptive and misleading prices. Sign our petition now being circulated through Change.org. Call your Senator and tell him not to roll back your consumer rights and allow airlines to post misleading and deceptive prices.

Here are the House Transportation Committee members who have come aboard as co-sponsors of this misguided legislation. Call or contact each of them, especially the Democrats. Every Representative should know better, but Democrats who masquerade as consumer-friendly legislators should be called out.

Rep Barletta, Lou [PA-11] – 4/8/2014 R
Rep Bustos, Cheri [IL-17] – 4/2/2014 D
Rep Capito, Shelley Moore [WV-2] – 3/11/2014 R
Rep Davis, Rodney [IL-13] – 3/11/2014 R
Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] – 3/6/2014 D
Rep Enyart, William L. [IL-12] – 3/26/2014 D
Rep Farenthold, Blake [TX-27] – 3/11/2014 R
Rep Graves, Tom [GA-14] – 3/6/2014 R
Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] – 4/8/2014 D
Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] – 3/26/2014 R
Rep Larsen, Rick [WA-2] – 3/6/2014 D
Rep Larson, John B. [CT-1] – 3/26/2014
Rep Lipinski, Daniel [IL-3] – 3/11/2014 D
Rep LoBiondo, Frank A. [NJ-2] – 3/6/2014 R
Rep Meehan, Patrick [PA-7] – 3/11/2014 R
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] – 3/11/2014 D
Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7] – 3/26/2014 D
Rep Rahall, Nick J., II [WV-3] – 3/6/2014 D
Rep Renacci, James B. [OH-16] – 3/26/2014 R
Rep Ribble, Reid J. [WI-8] – 3/11/2014 R
Rep Rice, Tom [SC-7] – 4/8/2014 R
Rep Sanford, Mark [SC-1] – 4/8/2014 D
Rep Sires, Albio [NJ-8] – 3/11/2014 D
Rep Southerland, Steve II [FL-2] – 3/11/2014 R
Rep Titus, Dina [NV-1] – 3/26/2014 D
Rep Veasey, Marc A. [TX-33] – 4/2/2014 D
Rep Westmoreland, Lynn A. [GA-3] – 4/8/2014 R
Rep Williams, Roger [TX-25] – 3/11/2014 D
Rep Young, Don [AK] – 3/11/2014 R

Just how does this bill legalize bait-and-switch advertising and drip pricing?

Here is the wording from the bill:

It shall not be an unfair or deceptive practice under subsection (a) for a covered
entity to state in an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation the base airfare for the air transportation if the covered entity clearly and separately discloses—
(A) the government-imposed taxes and fees associated with the air transportation; and
(B) the total cost of the air transportation.

—For purposes of paragraph 26 (1), with respect to an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation that appears on an Internet Web site, the information described in paragraphs (1)(A) and (1)(B) may be disclosed through a link or pop-up, as such terms may be defined by the Secretary, that displays the information in a manner that is easily accessible and viewable by the consumer.

The bill wastes no time in making mincemeat of full fare advertising. Though it is the title of the section of the bill, the description allows just the opposite of providing the full fare. It specifically authorizes airlines to separate airfares, taxes and fees, making them less than full. The bill even goes further by allowing airlines to use pop-ups, which many people have disabled, to inform passengers of taxes and fees. Or, the taxes and fees can be shared on a separate page connected with a link.

The airlines can make each passenger fill in additional information to reach the next page and then more information to reach the full fare before informing consumers of the full price to fly. After investing time and effort, many consumers will just pay the price rather than go through the same multipage process with each airline to discover and compare the full fares for travel. Passengers find themselves faced with another increase in price link by popup by link.

Anyone familiar with advertising knows this is the mechanism that allows bait-and-switch advertising and drip pricing.

Now, when airlines add in even more undisclosed ancillary fees, step-by-step, link-by-link, popup-by-popup this turns into a true legalized drip-pricing mechanism. Let’s not subject America’s flying public and its corporate travel departments to this kind of deceptive and misleading pricing.