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Orbitz fined $60,000 for failing to disclose taxes and fees [Updated]

October 17, 2011 | 11:06 am

5-orbitz

 The Department of Transportation fined the Orbitz travel website $60,000 for violating federal laws that require travel sites to clearly disclose taxes and fees on airfares.

The federal agency said that during a period in early 2011, the Orbitz home page advertised air fares without disclosing that passengers must pay extra fees and taxes for the airline tickets.

“Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying for airfares,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “We established airline price advertising rules to protect the consumer and will take enforcement action when these rules are violated.”

An Orbitz spokeswoman said that a glitch that resulted in fares being displayed without the prominent link to fees and taxes for a short period of time has been addressed, and that Orbitz is in compliance with the Department of Transportation.

According to the Department of Transportation, Orbitz customers were not notified of the additional charges until they followed the link to another page and scrolled to the bottom, where the information about taxes and fees was included in fine print.

Also, customers who selected discounted fares on Orbitz found that these fares were no longer available, and they were instead taken to a page where a different fare was displayed, the federal agency said.

Under federal laws, online travel sites must disclose separate taxes and fees through a prominent link next to the fare, and the link must take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees are displayed. In addition, the law says that the sites must offer a reasonable number of seats for an advertised fare. The rules apply to ticket agents as well as airlines.

[Updated at 3:24 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said an Orbitz spokesperson could not be reached for comment. A response from a company representative is included in this updated version.]

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 -- Hugo Martin

Image: Orbitz website

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