Ryanair urges Google to enforce greater transparency following customer complaints

Irish low fares airline Ryanair has urged Google to enforce greater transparency on its online advertising following extensive complaints from Ryanair customers who have been misled into booking Ryanair flights on non-Ryanair websites, purposely designed to mislead customers.

According to the airline, screenscraper websites such as eDreams have been paying for Google advertising to have their websites rank above the official Ryanair website on Google searches, which Ryanair claims is misleading Ryanair customers into visiting the eDreams website, masquerading as Ryanair.com, and booking with eDreams.

Ryanair also urged customers to book directly on Ryanair.com and called on Google to enforce greater transparency on its advertising rules, to prevent European customers being misled and overcharged.

Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: ‘As Europe’s largest airline, Ryanair has received numerous complaints from our customers who have inadvertently purchased Ryanair flights on the eDreams website, as a direct result of the misleading advertising provided by Google. EDreams has been unlawfully selling Ryanair flights, by masquerading as Ryanair.com, and then offering customers a substandard service, with additional fees, or by often selling fares that don’t even exist. While we have no issue with Google advertising in general, it is unfair that it is used as a mechanism to mislead customers.

Customers end up paying more for their flights, thinking they’ve bought Ryanair flights with Ryanair, and often their contact details aren’t passed on, meaning they can’t be contacted if their flight changes, and they also have trouble checking-in online. This is a particular problem for customers in the UK and Ireland.

Ryanair will continue to pursue screenscraper websites such as eDreams to prevent Europe’s consumers from being misled over price and booking conditions. We would again urge customers to book directly on the Ryanair.com website to guarantee the lowest fares and best customer service. In the meantime, we call on Google to enforce greater transparency of its advertising to prevent any more customers from being misled and overcharged.’

Ryanair has been engaged in several legal cases against screenscraper websites across Europe to prevent its customers from being subjected to additional, hidden charges and to ensure Ryanair has appropriate contact details to communicate with its customers. The Court of Hamburg recently ruled that eDreams has been using an unlawful subdomain and was misleading customers into thinking that it had an official partnership with Ryanair, the airline said.

Ryanair to redesign website and provide point of contact

Irish low-cost airline, Ryanair, is planning to change the layout of its website following customer complaints.

‘I think there are a number of things we need to improve. If you look at the way our website works, it’s very clunky, it’s very frustrating and difficult to get through,’ Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, reportedly told Prime Time on Ireland’s RTE.

‘It’s the source of most complaints I get from customers. They like our fares, they love our punctuality, they like the service we deliver, but they think the website is awful and I agree with them,’ O’Leary said, adding: ‘You’re going to see us rollout a couple of developments in the coming weeks, where we make our website much simpler to engage with.’

Separately, in response to a legal action against the airline by the National Consumer Agency (NCA), Ryanair has also agreed to provide contact points for its customers on its website. The NCA issued Ryanair with a compliance notice, under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, asking the company to provide an email address on its website. Companies providing electronic commerce services must provide consumers with an email address under law, the NCA said.

While Ryanair was initially looking to appeal this notice in Swords District Court, the airline told the NCA later that it was withdrawing the appeal and the compliance notice will remain effective.

Speaking on Prime Time, O’Leary also admitted that the airline needs to be more ‘sensitive and responsive’ to complaints from customers. ‘There is no doubt I’ve made mistakes,’ he said. ‘There’s no doubt I need to learn from those mistakes.’

The airline announced earlier this month that it carried over nine million passengers in August.

‘We employ 9,000 aviation professionals. On a daily basis, they do a fantastic job. They deliver the best airline service of any airline service in Europe. But where there are rough edges, yes, I take responsibility for those and I have to change those rough edges.

‘I think in the past we have responded with far too much of a blank – ‘Look, that’s the policy. Go away’. Now, we have to be a little bit more sensitive and responsive to the customers. It’s about evolution, not revolution,’ O’Leary said.


ECC Report: Air Travel Attracts More Complaints Than Any Other Service

The European Consumer Centre reports that the air travel industry is the most complaint-ready. The centre is one of Europe’s most visible and respected consumer groups, providing data for regulatory bodies and commerce commissions within the EU. More than any other sector, it was air travel that attracted complaints in record numbers throughout the last twelve months.

Leading the complaint surge is Europe’s collection of low-cost airlines. With add-on fees for items such as hand luggage and massive cancellation charges, some of Europe’s ‘cheapest’ airlines ranked the worst with consumers in categories including customer service and cost transparency. Deceptive fares and destinations were a major cause of complaints, including those that require onward travel.

Lost baggage and delayed flights were also leading causes for complaint, with hundreds of tourists writing or phoning in to specify their issues with airlines. Based in Ireland, the centre has based its understanding of the international complaints surge on the presence of low-cost carrier RyanAir in Ireland. The airline is one of several in Europe renowned for its nickel-and-dime business strategy.

Other frequent complaints were based around car rentals, with hidden charges and questionable fees for ‘damage’ featuring prominently amongst the centre’s most notorious subjects. A growing number of travellers contacted the consumer centre to lodge complaints against car rental companies placing unwanted or renegotiated charges on their credit cards, often for damage that didn’t exist.

In contrast, the hotel and accommodation industry has experienced a relatively complaint-free year, despite low occupancy rates and poor business in general. Complaints about unauthorised hotel fees and other common accommodation scams were fairly low, with consumers generally pleased with their experiences in Europe’s major hotel chains and independent operators.