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16 January 2019
On 31 October 2018 the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) ordered the Irish carrier Ryanair and the Hungarian carrier Wizz Air to suspend the implementation of a new hand baggage policy that would have charged passengers extra for bringing a standard-sized trolley (ie, up to 55cm x 40cm x 23cm) on board flights departing from 1 November 2018.
In practice, the two airlines would have allowed passengers to bring only small hand baggage (ie, up to 40cm x 30cm x 20cm) on board for free (to be stored exclusively under the passenger seat), while larger hand baggage would cost customers an extra fee of between €5 and €25 (depending on the various booking options, such as priority boarding or fidelity programmes).
The AGCM held that the new policy would cause a misleading representation of the actual price of airfares, because the operators would exclude a predictable and non-avoidable charge from the final price of the air transport service, namely the extra cost for bringing standard-sized hand luggage that – according to the AGCM – should otherwise be included in the basic fare. The result of this practice would affect the decision making of average consumers since they would not be able to figure out the real price offered to the public or make comparisons with fares proposed by other carriers on the same routes. Following this line of reasoning, the AGCM found a breach of Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Consumer Code (regarding unfair commercial actions and omissions against consumers) and has resolved to suspend the new hand baggage policy of Ryanair and Wizz Air. On such basis, the foreign carriers have also been ordered to refrain from any increase of costs for large hand baggage transport and to make a suitable space for the storage of hand baggage available to all passengers, either on board or in the cargo hold.
Both airlines challenged the AGCM's decision before the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, asking for its precautionary suspension and then revocation on the merits. The arguments submitted by the claimants to support their position are similar and can be summarised as follows:
With separate decisions given on 22 November 2018 (Ryanair) and 6 December 2018 (Wizz Air), the Lazio Regional Administrative Court upheld the challenge of both airlines and, accordingly, suspended the AGCM decisions by way of precautionary measures. The merits of the two cases will be discussed at the public hearing, which will be held before the administrative court on 27 February 2019.
For further information on this topic please contact Laura Pierallini at Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by telephone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at www.studiopierallini.it.
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