Airlines force customers to call numbers for a fee

by Deborah Cater
Airlines force customers to call chargeable phone numbers

The Spanish consumer organisation FACUA is filing a complaint against airlines that force customers to call a chargeable number.

You probably recognise the situation: you want to contact an airline and the only way you can find is to call a phone number you have to pay for. The Spanish consumer organisation FACUA is filing a complaint. 

Airlines that force people to call customer service numbers for a fee are circumventing the law. According to FACUA, 7 out of 10 airlines use this practice. As a result, the organisation reported 27 airlines to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the consumer protection authorities of the 17 autonomous communities. 

Analysis of 33 airlines

FACUA carried out an analysis of the websites of 33 airlines. Of those analysed, only six offer only toll-free telephones (Air Nostrum, Alitalia, Eurowings, Norwegian, S7 and Vueling) for customer service, whether someone is calling as a customer or not yet a customer. 

A further three offer toll-free lines, but restrict them to certain procedures or do not display them correctly on their website (British Airways, Iberojet and Ryanair). 

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Of the remaining 24, four offer toll-free numbers only for customers, but not for those who want to ask questions before purchasing the ticket (Binter, Canary Fly, Iberia and Plus Ultra). 

Of the 20 companies that do not have a toll-free telephone, either for existing or potential customers, one offers an additional tariff line with prefix 807 (Wizzair). Another one offers line 901 (TAP Air Portugal), and two offer both lines 902 as national geographic prefixes (Blue Air and Volotea); fourteen indicate only national geographic prefixes (Air Europa, Airfrance, American Airlines, Condor, Easyjet, Finnair, Iceland Air, Jet2, KLM, SAS, Transavia, Wamos Air, EgyptAir and Qatar Airways). Meanwhile one has a national mobile phone (AlbaStar) and another a prefix from outside Spain (Luxair). 

What the law says 

Since December last year, on the basis of Article 21 of Royal Legislative Decree 1/2007 of November 16, it has been stated that “in the case of basic services of general interest, the companies providing them must in any case have a toll-free telephone number for customer service.” Basic services of general interest are those that include gas, water, electricity, finance, insurance, postal services, air, rail and road transport, health protection, sanitation and waste. 

Companies outside that remit must provide their service numbers with national prefixes or mobile numbers. 

FACUA states that people who call and have to pay via the premium rates prefixed by -902, 901, 806, 807, should be able to request money back. And in those cases where it is mandatory for companies to offer free lines, the number of calls to mobile and fixed lines with national or international prefixes can also be claimed.

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