John Fingleton, chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has accused airline Ryanair of “taunting consumers” with “puerile” charges when booking ‘free’ flights. The head of business watchdog criticised the Irish budget carrier for fees that could be added when customers pay online.
In an interview with The Independent, Mr Fingleton singled out the practice of levying fees by adding charges to payments made with all but one specific type of bank card yet still claiming to offer ‘free flights’. He also questioned the automatic addition of insurance to flights by airlines such as Ryanair, unless customers opted out.
Earlier this year, following OFT intervention, Ryanair promised to take steps to increase the clarity and transparency of its website and other advertising.
From last month, payments made by the widely used Electron card that had previously been free, began to attract a £5 booking fee per passenger after Ryanair changed its free ‘option’ to MasterCard prepaid cards that are used by few consumers.
Mr Fingleton accused the company of using ”very low frequency payment mechanism” to get around rules that say ‘free flights’ must be completely free.
He said: ”Ryanair has this funny game where they have found some very low frequency payment mechanism and say: ‘Well because you can pay with that’,” he said.
”It’s almost like taunting consumers and pointing out: ‘Oh well, we know this is completely outside the spirit of the law, but we think it’s within the narrow letter of the law’.”
Other airlines also levy payment fees per passenger even in the same transaction, but Ryanair goes further by applying the fee for each flight on the booking. It means, for example, that two adults booking return flights face charges of £20 even if the flights are paid for on the same card during the same transaction.
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