THERE are often complaints about the number of regulatory bodies now overseeing businesses in Britain and the EU. Let the buyer and the seller settle matters between them, is an often heard refrain. Unfortunately the buyer is too often at a disadvantage from opportunistic companies whose name should guarantee a fair deal. It is for this reason that regulatory bodies are necessary even in areas of business that are relatively competitive and open. A recent ruling on the cost of flying illustrates the point perfectly. Yesterday the UK Office of Fair Trading said it had ordered 13 European airlines to act on a ruling designed to ensure that there are no hidden costs in the price of an advertised ticket. In some cases passengers have found that added taxes and charges amount to more than the so-called “lead-in” price shown on the internet. Eleven airlines, including six with services to Majorca, have agreed to abide by the ruling immediately by showing the full cost involved; Ryanair and Aer Lingus said they will do so as soon as possible. British Airways, perhaps conscious of the knock its reputation has taken over collusion with Virgin over fuel surcharges, said: “We fully support an industry-wide move to all-inclusive pricing for all European Airlines.” At the same time the Association of British Travel Agents said it would take action against any of its members who mislead their customers over the cost of their holidays. Regulation has its uses.


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