Investigation of 67 airlines' Internet sites by the European Commission, as part of a drive against misleading advertising, has revealed that most carriers have cleaned up their ticket-selling practices since the probe began in 2007.

While a dozen airlines are still causing problems, European consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva says there has been a "step change" in complying with consumer protection rules.

The Commission initiated its investigation two years ago, examining 137 sites across 80 companies, and its final report follows a reassessment of 67 airlines in March 2009.

Sixteen have met with full approval from the Commission, while another 36 have committed to remedy outstanding issues.

The probe has focused on a variey of matters. These includeclarity of the true price of air fares, ensuring passengers can easily access terms and conditions, and the practice of forcing customers to de-select unwanted options-the latter being something which the Commission believes is unfair.

Internet sites have been checked against a list of 14 criteria. The follow-up assessment in March also took into account two new pieces of legislation, an air services regulation and a directive on unfair commercial practices, designed to enhance consumer protection.

"This first pan-European enforcement investigation has shown it has real teeth, and can deliver," says Kuneva. "All of this work is about tackling the plague of hidden charges, pre-ticked boxed and nasty surprises in the 'small print' of airline websites."

While progress has been encouraging, she says a dozen airlines are "still giving us real cause for concern" and there are "still too many" Internet sites which do not comply fully with consumer legislation.

But Kuneva says this is a "far cry" from the "widespread" illegal practices discovered during the first sweep by the Commission in September 2007.

Source: Airline Business