The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) has called for a meeting with representatives of airlines and travel portals on November 8 to discuss the rising number of complaints from air travellers. Consumers have flagged grievances against “refund not given after ticket cancellation”, “deficiency of services” and all airline seats being shown as “paid” despite promising free web check-in among others.

Addressing mediapersons on Thursday, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh, said over 10,000 complaints related to airlines and travel portals have been received by National Consumer Helpline over the past one year.

Major grievances

According to NCH data, nearly 40 per cent of the complaints received were regarding refunds not received post cancellation of tickets. Other grievances include deficiency of services, delayed compensation for lost or damaged luggage, money deducted but ticket having not been received and denial of boarding despite valid tickets among others.

About half of the complaints are related to “ticket cancelled but no refund received from airlines”. Some of the major grievances also include airlines showing every seat as paid despite free mandatory web check-in, he said.

“One of the key issues raised has been the promise of “free web check-in” but when the consumers go online all seats are shown as paid. Once a traveller has paid the fare and the airlines has issued a confirmed ticket then all the services have to be fair and to the advantage of the consumers,” he added.

Stating that these complaints are just tip of the iceberg, Singh said DoCA has not called for a meeting with industry representatives to discuss these consumer grievances with airlines, travel portals and consumer organisations.

He added that consumers have also noticed that the interface is “misleading” on airline websites and travel portals.

Dark patterns

The Consumer Affairs Ministry is also in the process of finalising guidelines for dark patterns. Dark patterns are deceptive design patterns using UI/UX interactions to mislead or trick consumers to do something they did not originally intend on doing. This includes leading to unintended purchase, creating false urgency to make users buy something, sneaking additional products or services to the shopping cart, subscription traps, bait and switch, drip pricing and disguised ads among others.

Singh said that DoCA had received comments from over 50 stakeholders. “Infact, a few additional dark patterns such as trick questions, SaaS billing and rogue malware have also been suggested to be included in the guidelines. We will soon finalise the guidelines,” he added.

The Ministry has also launched Dark Patterns Buster Hackathon in collaboration with IIT (BHU). The aim of the Hackthon will be to design and prototype innovative app or software-based solutions such as browser extensions, plugins, add-ons or mobile apps that can detect the use, type or sale of dark patterns for e-commerce platforms, an official statement added. 

Top Developments
  1. India will play a key role in setting up a “global online dispute resolution (ODR) platform’ to resolve disagreements in B2C online transactions, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said on Thursday.
  2. “The UN has accepted India’s proposal and asked us to develop a framework on global online dispute resolution with a focus on resolving cross-border B2C e-commerce disputes,” Singh added. India is hosting the first conference on Friday to deliberate on the framework of this ODR. Representatives of several countries, including the US, the UK, and Thailand, are expected to attend.