A two-year campaign to ensure Ryanair complies with Office of Fair Trading (OFT) pricing rules has ended with the carrier making “minor adjustments” to its website.
The OFT said Ryanair had taken “voluntary steps to increase the clarity and transparency of its website and other advertising” following a referral by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in April 2008.
Ryanair.com has given greater prominence to links detailing its promotions and optional fees.
But the decision has taken too long, said ABTA board member and Sunvil Holidays managing director Noel Josephides. “A decision should have been made two years ago. By the time the OFT makes a move, the people it is meant to be looking at have made their money, and the people endangered by what it is doing, have gone out of business.”
In February 2007, the OFT threatened action against airlines and travel firms that left non-optional charges out of prices. ABTA agreed to police its members and imposed fines on several of them in mid-2007, when the OFT announced the compliance of most major airlines.
Ryanair did not change its website until February 2008, and the ASA referred it to the OFT two months later.
A Ryanair spokesman described the referral as “silly” adding “The changes have not just been made”.
The ASA, while welcoming the announcement, said it had acted following “repeated breaches”. It found Ryanair “persistently misleading consumers”, making “exaggerated claims about the availability of flights at the advertised price”, and “not providing evidence to prove claims”.
The OFT declined to give any details of the evidence Ryanair supplied to demonstrate its compliance.
Ryanair.com was displaying a range of £4 promotional fares as Travel Weekly went to press, with a link noting “Fares don’t include optional fees/charges”. This brings up a table of fees including £5 for online check-in. However, a Ryanair spokesman said: “If it is a promotional fare, online check-in is included, and we absorb the cost of Air Passenger Duty.”
ABTA head of legal services Simon Bunce said: “If the customer is paying what they see, fantastic.”
But data from market research company Continental Research suggests the problem has not gone away. It found 31% of respondents said “budget” fares cost more than expected, and 44% were unhappy with the charges added to prices. Continental concluded: “Pricing structures have created confusion.”
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