Airlines, agents and other travel-related companies will be forced to modify the way they sell online in light of new rules published today.

The measures, outlined in a consultation on the Consumer Rights Directive, are designed to give greater clarity and transparency on consumer rights.

They seek to ban opt-out tick boxes, which automatically add ancillary services to purchases, and to stop companies using premium rate numbers for consumer queries.

Consumer Affairs Minister Norman Lamb said: "Many people will have been ripped off at some point by hidden online charges while booking a holiday, premium rate helplines when returning a purchase or disproportionate and often unexpected charges for paying with credit or debit cards.

"The Consumer Rights Directive will put an end to certain bad business practices and help consumers make well-informed decisions when buying products or services. It will also boost business confidence, setting out clearer rules and responsibilities and cutting red tape by reducing compliance costs."

But the laws have been criticised by some customer campaign groups for failing to tackle credit card surcharges and other payment fees.

Following OFT recommendations last year, the Government has announced plans to bring forward legislation to ban excessive debit and credit card surcharges across the economy.

Today the Government said this would be the subject of a separate consultation, to be published shortly.

In a half-way step, a dozen airlines were forced to change their pricing policy by the Office of Fair Trading at the start of this month.

Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Aer Lingus, Eastern Airways, easyJet, Flybe, German Wings, Jet2, Lufthansa, BMI Baby, and Wizz Air all agreed to include debit card surcharges in the headline price following a 'super-complaint' from consumer rights magazine Which?.

From Travel Mole