By Nathalie Voit

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new rule on Jan. 24 aimed at protecting aviation consumers from unfair and deceptive practices.

The final rule will simplify and expedite hearing procedures in the department related to unfair or deceptive business practices within the industry. The rule is intended to make it easier for consumers to be heard while ensuring aviation consumer protection rulemakings are not delayed.

Under existing law, if the DOT suggests a rulemaking on behalf of aviation consumers, airlines are entitled to ask for a hearing to determine whether the department’s views are based on plausible clause. However, hearings often delay consumer protection rulemaking and leaves consumers worse off when it comes to protecting them from ancillary fees and other unfair practices in the industry.

The new law will make it easier for the department to pursue government regulations on behalf of aviation consumers by speeding up the rulemaking process and granting the agency greater latitude in appointing appropriate hearing officers.

Additionally, the new rule will eliminate the requirement that hearing officers issue detailed reports and clarify that hearings will only be granted if they are in the public interest.

The rule would still provide airlines with a right to a hearing; however they would be forced to move more swiftly.

The department also announced that it plans to issue guidance on the definitions of “unfair” and “deceptive” for purposes of aviation consumer protection.

“This rule improves the Department’s ability to issue timely rules that protect airline consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, a responsibility the Department takes seriously,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg, according to the release.

The new proposals are in line with the Biden administration’s efforts to protect consumers and support competition reform across a wide range of industries.

Recently, the White House announced new rules to curtail what it dubs the “monopolist” meat and poultry processing sector. The action plan was signed as part of President Joe Biden’s broader Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.

Additionally, the Senate is currently pursuing a major big tech antitrust bill aimed at addressing anticompetitive behavior by dominant online platforms in the digital marketplace.

The legislation, known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, would be the single largest piece of bipartisan antitrust legislation in forty years if enacted. The legislation would also provide federal antitrust agencies with significant discretion over so called “covered platforms” like Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Google if they are found guilty of breaching the law.

Although the White House hasn’t explicitly weighed in on the bill, the administration has applauded similar efforts by lawmakers to rein in Big Tech.

Click here to read the DOT’s full report.