“The Transportation Department will enforce a rule requiring that any advertised price for air travel include all government taxes and fees.”

December 28th, 2011

This is billed as a way to prevent airlines form misleading consumers about the total price of the ticket. But what, what about a corporations free speech rights?!?

The government and the airlines are being guarded in discussing the full-fare advertising policy, since Spirit Airlines, Allegiant and Southwest have asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block the proposed change, arguing that it violates their commercial free speech rights. . .  .

Airlines for America (formerly the Air Transport Association), the trade group for airlines in the United States, did not join the lawsuit seeking to block these regulations, but it did file a brief outlining members’ concerns, particularly about the fare advertising policy change.

“We think it’s unnecessary and violates the First Amendment,” said David Berg, general counsel at Airlines for America. “The D.O.T. simply has not been able to justify that the current advertising is misleading in any way to support a restriction on free speech.”

Well I wonder what Eugene Volokh thinks…

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that although the practice of advertising prices without taxes was “utterly routine,” he did not believe the court would find that the government’s new rule violated the First Amendment.

“To the extent that this simply requires that the full price be in a more prominent format, it’s very likely constitutional,” he said. “The Supreme Court has said in the context of commercial advertising, the government has a very broad right to mandate speech that is reasonably aimed at preventing people from being misled.”

He also drew a distinction between sales taxes, which are familiar to most people, and aviation taxes, which are more variable and less well known — giving the government grounds for stipulating how these taxes are disclosed.

“I think, therefore, most likely it will be upheld,” Mr. Volokh said.

I just see this as a way for the government to hide the fact that you are paying taxes. I like all taxes to be as prominent as possible. Theoretically, one of my biggest objections to the VAT is that people won’t see the taxes. It will just be subsumed in the price, and the government will not be involved.