Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter yesterday urging Congress to enact new consumer protection measures for airline industry customers, whether as part of a financial relief package or in separate legislation, as soon as possible.
“State attorneys general are on the front lines of protecting American consumers from deceptive and unfair practices by industries. To that end, we strongly urge Congress that any further financial relief provided to the airline industry be coupled with, or followed by, appropriate consumer protection measures,” reads the letter signed by 40 state and territory attorneys general.
In their letter to Congressional leadership, the attorneys general called on Congress to enact the following consumer protections:
- Requiring carriers that receive federal financial relief to provide full refunds to customers who voluntarily cancel their flight reservations for reasons related to COVID-19;
- Strengthening existing laws requiring refunds for flight cancellations to be remitted in full and according to federal law, and preventing delays in the issuance of refunds or expirations that effectively cancel the value reimbursed; and
- Authorizing state attorneys general to enforce federal airline consumer protection laws, thereby broadening consumer violation enforcement beyond a single federal agency.
The United States passenger and cargo airline industry received nearly $60 billion in federal stimulus funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress is currently considering extending federal support by another six months and granting the industry an additional $28 billion in payroll support.
The attorneys general note, however, that since passage of the CARES Act, consumers continue to experience issues with certain airlines. Consumer complaints include failure to expeditiously refund customers, as required by law, when flights were cancelled or significantly delayed; failing to provide customers a means to promptly redeem vouchers or credits; and not providing a reliable way for customers to resolve such problems.
Finally, the attorneys general request that, if they are not provided dual consumer enforcement authority, the federal government provide a more transparent and robust consumer complaint process. In particular, the attorneys general request authority for the consumer complaint investigation process be removed from the U.S. Department of Transportation and moved to a more consumer protection focused agency, such as the U.S. Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.
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