Tech|November 23, 2011| Author: Kim LaCapria|Tags: , ,

Misleading Tweets Costs Spirit Airlines $50K

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Low-cost airline Spirit was slapped with a $50,000 fine by the US Department of Transportation over advertising, including tweets, that the government says deceived some customers by not fully disclosing additional costs.

A $9 airfare may too good to be true, but the US DOT alleges some customers may have been duped by the deceptive pricing. Twitter in particular was a sticking point, as while billboards hawking the low-sounding fares at least included an asterisk, tweets promoting the sale merely linked to the sale site:

The DOT found that Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit (NASDAQ: SAVE) used an asterisk on billboards and handheld posters, which led to small print, but failed to disclose the amount of taxes and fees. The billboards and posters were announcing new service to Los Angeles… Spirit also ran afoul by announcing $9 fares via Twitter, but not putting the amount of taxes and fees on the website the tweets linked to, the DOT said. Readers had to click on a second link to find out the fees.

Of the decision to fine Spirit again for the misleading tweets, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said:

“Consumers have a right to know the full price they will be paying when they buy an airline ticket… We expect airlines to treat their passengers fairly, and we will take enforcement action when they violate our price advertising rules.”

Spirit argued that the First Amendment protected their right to make such claims.