The Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal, GVH) has opened an investigation into Wizz Air for allegedly misleading consumers into buying tickets for its premium services (for a fee).
Hungarian authorities have received a growing number of complaints about the airline’s failure to provide information and assistance to customers whose flights have been delayed or canceled.
Wizz Air Hungary influences ticket buyers towards more expensive tickets
The Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) has opened an investigation against Wizz Air Hungary Zrt. for likely unfair commercial practices in the online ticketing process. The airline may be withholding (or delaying) information on its online platforms that is relevant to consumers’ choices, in order to influence ticket buyers towards more expensive options.
The undertaking is suspected of hiding from consumers the possibility of adding priority service or checked baggage to the cheapest package option. For some higher-cost package options, the undertaking may misleadingly claim that it „may be more expensive” if you only book your seat at check-in—this is presumably only true for other, cheaper package options.
The undertaking may also have used misleading designations and other technical devices to encourage consumers to choose seats at a premium price during online check-in.
Last autumn, following a comprehensive rapid analysis, the GVH issued a strong warning to airlines operating in Hungary to change their ticketing and advertising practices that undetectable distort consumer choice.
In October, the authority indicated that if no progress was made in the market concerned, it could open competition enforcement proceedings to investigate whether fair competition rules were being applied.
Unfair practices in online commerce
Such unacceptable practices are becoming more widespread: early last week, the European Commission published the results of a coordinated, 25-country fast-track investigation into the presence of so-called “dark patterns” in online commerce.
The results show that a significant number of businesses are using unfair practices to bias consumers’ choices towards options that serve their own interests, through the design or language of their internet interfaces.
The opening of competition proceedings does not mean that the undertaking has committed the infringement. The procedure aims to clarify the facts and thereby prove the alleged infringement. The time allowed for the procedure is three months, which may be extended twice, in duly justified cases, for a maximum of two months each time.
It is the Hungarian government’s second recent investigation into an air company, following the investigation of Irish carrier Ryanair, which was accused of raising ticket prices to cope with new taxes, and thus violating customer protection law.
Wizz Air, a low-cost airline, operates a fleet of 149 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. Wizz Air is listed on the London Stock Exchange with the abbreviation WIZZ.