To make air fares “truly meaningful and comparable” the Office of Fair Trading is calling on airlines to stop charging passengers for booking with debit cards.
Currently, the cost of booking with a debit card can vary depending on which airline passengers fly with.
For example, Easyjet charges £8 per booking made with a debit card, Ryanair charges £6 per passenger per flight, and British Airways charges nothing.
The government body is also calling on rail operators and ferry companies to stop charging debit card fees and find a “consistent solution”.
Paying with a debit card should be “the online equivalent to cash”, said Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT's goods and consumer group.
“The growth of internet retailing has brought massive benefits, but the increasing use of card surcharges is not one of them,” he said.
“You can't buy online with cash and people are frustrated about being asked to pay for paying.
“Consumers find it harder to shop around and find the best deal if they have to invest time and effort in discovering surcharges. This also weakens competition between retailers which is bad news for the UK economy.”
The OFT’s recommendations follow a super-complaint from consumer watchdog Which.
Following the complaint, the OFT has also questioned the practice of “drip pricing” – adding surcharges only after consumers have already filled in a number of web pages.
The OFT said some airlines and travel companies are “potentially misleading” with credit card fees coming as a “surprise”.
In addition, free payment methods are only available to a small proportion of consumers, making a surcharge effectively “compulsory”.
The OFT has said it will take “enforcement action” against any businesses continue to use misleading surcharging practices.
“We believe there is also a strong case for a change in the law so that the cost of using a debit card, the almost universal payment method for today's online consumers, is always included within the headline price,” said Elithorn.
Retailers and interested parties now have a 90-day window to share their views with the OFT.