14 CFR § 399.79 - Policies relating to unfair and deceptive practices.

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§ 399.79 Policies relating to unfair and deceptive practices.

(a) Applicability. This policy shall apply to the Department's aviation consumer protection actions pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 41712(a).

(b) Definitions.

(1) A practice is “unfair” to consumers if it causes or is likely to cause substantial injury, which is not reasonably avoidable, and the harm is not outweighed by benefits to consumers or competition.

(2) A practice is “deceptive” to consumers if it is likely to mislead a consumer, acting reasonably under the circumstances, with respect to a material matter. A matter is material if it is likely to have affected the consumer's conduct or decision with respect to a product or service.

(c) Intent. Proof of intent is not necessary to establish unfairness or deception for purposes of 49 U.S.C. 41712(a).

(d) Specific regulations prevail. Where an existing regulation applies to the practice of an air carrier, foreign air carrier, or ticket agent, the terms of that regulation apply rather than the general definitions set forth in this section.

(e) Informal enforcement proceedings (1) Before any determination is made on how to resolve a matter involving a potential unfair or deceptive practice, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection will provide an opportunity for the alleged violator to be heard and present relevant evidence, including but not limited to:

(i) In cases where a specific regulation applies, evidence tending to establish that the regulation at issue was not violated and, if applicable, that mitigating circumstances apply;

(ii) In cases where a specific regulation does not apply, evidence tending to establish that the conduct at issue was not unfair or deceptive as defined in paragraph (b) of this section; and

(iii) Evidence tending to establish that consumer harm was limited, or that the air carrier, foreign air carrier, or ticket agent has taken steps to mitigate consumer harm.

(2) During this informal process, if the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection reaches agreement with the alleged violator to resolve the matter with the issuance of an order declaring a practice in air transportation or the sale of air transportation to be unfair or deceptive to consumers under the authority of 49 U.S.C. 41712(a), and when a regulation issued under the authority of section 41712 does not apply to the practice at issue, then the Department shall articulate in the order the basis for concluding that the practice is unfair or deceptive to consumers as defined in this section.

(f) Formal enforcement proceedings. When there are reasonable grounds to believe that an airline or ticket agent has violated 49 U.S.C. 41712, and efforts to settle the matter have failed, the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection may issue a notice instituting an enforcement proceeding before an administrative law judge pursuant to 14 CFR 302.407. After the issues have been formulated, if the matter has not been resolved through pleadings or otherwise, the parties will receive reasonable written notice of the time and place of the hearing as set forth in 14 CFR 302.415.

[85 FR 78717, Dec. 7, 2020, as amended at 86 FR 17294, Apr. 2, 2021]

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