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A plane prepares to land at Toronto's Pearson airport. (FRANK GUNN/FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A plane prepares to land at Toronto's Pearson airport. (FRANK GUNN/FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Fess up on fees in ads, Ottawa tells airlines Add to ...

The Conservative government plans to stop deceptive airline marketing that lures consumers with prices that are only a fraction of the actual cost of flights when taxes and surcharges are factored in.

Steven Fletcher, the Minister of State for Transport, and his parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre announced Friday that the Canadian Transportation Agency will develop regulations that compel Canadian air carriers to include all fees and taxes in their advertised prices.

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“Our government is committed to enhancing consumer protection while promoting fair competition by ensuring greater transparency of advertised airfares for Canadian travellers,” Mr. Fletcher said. “This will allow consumers to easily determine the full cost of airfares in order to make informed choices.”

The regulations, which are expected to take a year to draft, will require carriers to include in the price advertised all costs of providing the service and to indicate in the advertisement all fees, charges and taxes related to the service that are collected by the carrier.

The move has been demanded for several years by consumer organizations and the travel industry.

Investigations by journalists have revealed that Canadian customers were being deceived by airlines advertising fares that omitted items like fuel surcharges that often add 50 per cent and more to the advertised cost.

Air Canada was fined $50,000 (U.S.) in August by the U.S. Department of Transportation for violating “deceptive price advertising” rules in online ads. The government agency found that Canada's largest carrier displayed ads on its websites in early 2011 that didn't disclose taxes and fees tacked onto advertised fares.

The regulations were made possible by changes to the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act that were passed by the House of Commons in 2007.

Glenn Thibeault, the NDP transportation critic, said his party is “excited” that the government is doing something about the misleading advertised fares.

“But, my staff and I did the calculation and it took 639 days since the vote passed in the House to actually amend the Act for them to implement it,” said Mr. Thibeault. “So it’s great for travellers and consumers but we have to ask why did it take four and a half years to implement.”

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