By Keith Laing - 05/05/14 03:14 PM EDT
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has filed a bill to counter a House attempt to nullify regulations that require airlines to include taxes and fees in price quotes for flights.
The measure, dubbed the “Real Transparency in Airfares Act,” would not only maintain the Department of Transportation’s airline price advertising rules; it would also increase the penalties for violating the rules.
Currently, the maximum penalty for not advertising full prices for flights is $27,500. Menendez’s measure would invalidate a measure that has gained momentum in the House to eliminate the advertising rules and increase the penalty to $55,000.
“We may be living in the Information Age, but for passengers trying to understand the full cost of their airfare, it often feels more like the Stone Age,” Menendez said in a statement. “There are more hidden costs seemingly every time they fly—bag fees, seat fees, pet fee—for years, airlines tried to hide these costs from travelers, making air travel look significantly cheaper than it actually is.”
The House bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), has been unanimously approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure.
Shuster has said that the Transportation Department's rules have allowed the federal government to “hide” fees that is imposing on passengers and force airlines to take the blame for the resulting higher fares.
"Virtually all consumer products are advertised at a base price, with taxes added on at the point of purchase,” Shuster said in a statement when the bill was released. “But Department of Transportation regulations have fundamentally and unfairly changed the advertising rules for airfares by requiring all government imposed taxes and fees to be embedded in the advertised price of a ticket. As a result, the fact that Americans are paying higher and higher government imposed taxes and fees to travel by air is being hidden from them."
Menendez said Monday that the House bill is “a gimmick” that is deceivingly named.
“Contrary to the title, the [House] bill is a bad deal for consumers, and makes airfares less transparent,” the New Jersey senator said.
Menendez said his bill’s increased fines for violating the DOT’s price advertising rules would actually boost passenger protections.
“These tougher penalties will make unscrupulous ticket sellers think twice before they try to pull a fast one on their customers—and pay heavily if they do so,” Menendez said.