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Ryanair rapped after taking thousands of pounds from customers’ accounts

Ryanair has been criticised by a consumer watchdog for collecting thousands of pound from customers’ bank accounts – after they had returned from holiday.

Passengers who flew with the no-frills airline from Barcelona or Madrid in July, who booked their flights in June or before, were hit with retrospective charges of up to £7.20 (€9.00) per person, following the Spanish government’s decision to raise airport taxes.

The magazine Which? said that the majority of airlines – including BA, Easyjet, Flybe, Jet2, Thomson and Monarch – had absorbed the charges, and suggested that Ryanair may be in breach of its own terms and conditions.

While it is permitted to pass on additional taxes to passengers after booking, these should be paid “prior to departure”.

Which? found that some passengers - including one of its own researchers - were charged after they had returned home.

A Ryanair spokesman said it was “obliged to collect taxes and charges and pass them to the Spanish government on behalf of passengers”.

Meanwhile, a Ryanair advert offering cheap flights to Malmo has been ruled misleading by the Advertising Standards Agency.

The promotion, which was published in national newspapers in February, claimed that passengers could fly to the Swedish city for £14.99 one way.

However, the price did not include a £6 “admin fee” for using a debit or credit card.

The airline’s argument, that the £6 fee could be avoided by paying with a Ryanair Cash Passport Card, was rejected, as consumers are obliged to load the card with a minimum of £150 before it can be used.

The Cash Passport, introduced by the airline last year, has been criticised by Which? – and rival prepaid currency card companies – for charging users excessive fees, including a 50p charge on all transactions (other than bookings with Ryanair), and a £2.50 charge if the card is not used for six months.

Oliver Smith, Telegraph.co.uk