Ryanair lands in probe over voucher complaints
CLAIMS that Ryanair's gift vouchers are almost impossible to redeem -- and may end up costing consumers more than they're worth -- are under investigation by the National Consumers Agency (NCA).
The NCA received several complaints in May from frustrated consumers claiming that they were unable to get through to telephone reservation agents to book flights using the vouchers. They can only be redeemed by ringing a dedicated reservation line, which charges callers 13c a minute, according to company policy.
Ryanair claimed that it had relocated its call centre and the problem of callers being put on hold indefinitely was no longer an issue, according to an NCA spokeswoman.
However, the consumer watchdog last night said it would re-open its investigation yesterday after several furious gift-voucher holders rang the Liveline programme on RTE Radio yesterday claiming it was next to impossible to redeem the vouchers by telephone as required.
One caller, a pensioner named Martha, said she had been trying to make reservations for the past six months and gave up the other day after being put on hold for 45 minutes before being cut off.
"I feel like just crying," Martha said.
The €300 voucher expires tomorrow under the budget airline's policy which restricts validity to just six months from the date of purchase, she added.
Martha said she had rung every Ryanair phone number listed -- and even spent €5.90 to send a registered letter to headquarters on July 17 -- hoping to resolve her booking nightmare, but had not heard back.
Fellow pensioner Noel Long said it cost him almost the entire value of his €50 gift voucher in calls to the reservation line, which was finally answered after three attempts, in order to book a flight to London three days before it expired.
"To use my son's €50 gift voucher, I had to pay €49.30 for the phone call," he said. "The €50 voucher cost about €100."
Ryanair spokesman Daniel de Carvalho said that while he understood customers' frustration, the only way they could redeem the vouchers was by ringing the line, although Ryanair was considering making voucher bookings accessible online.
Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland said Ryanair's was "one of the worst examples of a voucher system... It's very, very bad business practice that needs to be stopped and outlawed."