The Italian Council of State recently issued positive judgments dismissing two appeals by the Italian competition authority against the two airlines Wizz Air(1) and Ryanair(2). In both cases, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) intervened in favor of the airlines.
In both cases, the existence of unfair commercial practices contrary to Italian consumer law was ruled out. The two judgments are particularly relevant because they confirmed that airlines’ carry-on baggage policies comply with both national and international industry regulations – there are no binding regulations dictating what baggage dimensions must be part of a basic service. The judgment of the Council of State is in line with international jurisprudence.(3)
The dispute concerned the changes introduced on November 1, 2018, according to which a “simple” travel ticket no longer contained a large hand luggage (i.e. 55 centimeters by 40 centimeters by 23 centimeters), but only a small hand luggage (i.e. 45 centimeters by 36 centimeters by 23 centimeters). 20 centimeters). The Italian competition authority considered this change as a reduction of an essential and predictable element of the final price of the ticket.
The Italian competition authority put forward three grounds of appeal, all of which were dismissed as unfounded by the Council of State. Of particular relevance to the decision was the Italian Consumer Code’s definition of “unfair commercial practices”, according to which a commercial practice exists when it:
violates professional diligence and is false or capable of distorting to a significant extent the economic behavior of the average consumer to whom it reaches or to whom it is addressed, or of the average member of a group in relation to the product, if the commercial practice is directed to a specific group of consumers.
The general definition recognizes two types of practices: deceptive and aggressive. In the present case, the Italian competition authority claimed that the commercial practice in question was misleading. The misleading nature of a commercial practice depends on whether it is untrue because it contains false information or is otherwise likely to mislead the average consumer.
However, according to the Lazio Regional Administrative Court and the Council of State, the change in hand luggage policy did not constitute a misleading practice within the meaning of Italian Consumer Protection Law, as airlines continued to recognize the possibility of carrying luggage, albeit smaller than previously allowed when purchasing a “basic” ticket . The new policy therefore had to be considered as falling within the scope of the carrier’s freedom of trade.
The Council of State, reaffirming what had previously been stated, has finally ended a multiple-raised issue and closed the discussion on Wizz Air and Ryanair’s new baggage policy.
For more information on this subject, please contact Laura Pierallini or Chiara Nuzzo from Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by phone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at www.studiopierallini.it.
(1) Judgment No. 879/2022.
(2) Judgment No. 6426/2022.
(3) See VuelingCourt of Justice of the European Union, September 18, 2014, case C-487/2012.