The ICA has opened non-compliance proceedings against Ryanair and Wizz Air

On 7 November 2018, the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) opened non-compliance proceedings against the airline companies Ryanair and Wizz Air. Pursuant to Article 27, paragraph 12 of the Italian Consumer Code, the opening of the proceedings follows the failure to comply with the interim measures adopted on 31 October 2018, consisting in the provisional suspension of the new cabin bag policy of the airlines, and aims at the imposition of a pecuniary administrative sanction ranging from 10.000 euro to 5 million euro.

Under the new policies, consumers who have bought a flight ticket from Ryanair after the 1 September 2018 and from Wizz Air after the 10 October 2018 for flights operating after the 1 November 2018, have to pay an extra charge, determined in different ways by the airlines companies, in order to carry on board their large cabin bags (trolley).

According to the airlines, the policies have been introduced in order to reduce delays in boarding, thus benefitting the passengers. They argue that the surcharge added to the standard price of the ticket concerns a luggage that is not an essential element of the air transport contract, since it remains the possibility to carry on board a smaller cabin bag of dimension 40 cm x 20 cm x 25 cm (Ryanair) or 40 cm x 30 cm x 20 cm (Wizz Air).

The ICA considered the new cabin bag policies as unfair commercial practices ex Articles 20, 21, paragraph 1, letters b) and d), and Article 22 of the Italian Consumer Code. In fact, they mislead consumers with regard to the actual price of the ticket and distort the comparison with prices applied by other companies. According to the ICA, the requested surcharge should be included in the standard price of the ticket, as it consists in a foreseeable contractual obligation for consumers, since the lager cabin bag is an essential element of the air transport contract.

In the light of the above, the ICA ordered the airlines to temporarily cease any activity intended to require the contested extra charge and to make available to consumers the capacity created for hand luggage transportation in the aircraft, either in the cabin or in the hold, free of charge. However, on 6 November 2018, the airlines informed the ICA that they did not comply with the requested interim measures due to a lack of clarity of the ICA’s decision and to avoid the risk of flight delays.