Study Faults Deregulation by Bob Downes

Thanks to deregulation, airline passengers have had to deal with more connections, delays, cramped seats and uncomfortable small planes, according to Consumers Union.

On top of that, Consumers Union noted that the airlines have been exempted from state consumer protection laws and passengers have lost most of their rights while security has deteriorated.

Study of Five Industries

In a study of five industries where deregulation has had an direct impact on consumers, Consumers Union, an Independent, nonprofit testing and information-gathering organization, found that consumers have made some gains, but overall they've lost ground because service has deteriorated, consumer rights have suffered and price cuts are often not all they seem. The findings are published in the July issued of Consumer Reports.

Ranking the airline industry amount the worst, Consumers Union said consumers didn't fare well at the hands of the telephone, cable TV, Banking and electricity industries either.

Deregulation supporters hang most of their success on reduced airfares that have declined nearly 37% since deregulation took place in 1978, but Consumers Union pointed out that fares fell nearly as much and just as fast during the 22-year period prior to its implementation. However, while 96% of tickets sold today are discounted, most include restrictions. "In other words, consumers are paying 37% less for inferior quality. In an apples to apples comparison, deregulated full coach fares in 2000 were 65% higher than their regulated equivalents in 1978, on average, even after adjusting for inflation." Even before deregulation, discounts were available.

'Consumer Rights Atrophy'

"Consumer rights, meanwhile, have atrophied," said Consumers Union, noting that rights such as airline liability for lost luggage and penalties for denied boarding were created during the regulated era. consumers Union urged legislators to reassert their authority by regulating monopoly markets when there's not enough true competition; enforcing antitrust laws vigorously; providing strong consumer safeguards such as a truth in airfares disclosure and a passengers bill of rights; and by reintroducing legislation that would allow state attorneys to take enforcement actions under federal consumer protections.

Consumers should write to the Transportation Department if they have a bad experience with any carrier and seek compensation when there has been a costly breach of contract.

A final tip offered by Consumers Union: "Dreadful service? Vote with your feet."

as published in the Travel Trade News #1 Weekly nes source for over 225,000 Travel Sellers - Creating a Voice, not just and Echo for 73 years.