EU may close Ryanair site over pricing 'irregularities'
OVER half of Europe's airlines, including Ryanair, could be forced to close their websites next year if they fail to remedy problems highlighted by the EU consumer affairs watchdog.
The results of the investigation says "over 50pc of all websites showed irregularities, in particular relating to price indications, contract terms and clarity of proposed conditions.
"Companies will be contacted by authorities and asked to provide clarification or change their practices in four months. Those who fail to do so could face legal action leading to fines or closure of their websites," the report says.
The results do not identify any airlines in particular, but the European Union's executive Commission intends to "publish a list of companies concerned" in four months' time.
Last month, Spain's consumer rights watchdog said it had found "misleading information" in seven of 12 airline ticket websites including Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-cost airline.
The Spanish authorities also found faults with Spanish carriers Vueling, Iberia and Spanair.
"Ryanair and those other companies in the Spanish investigation are on our radar," a European Commission source said.
Airlines that are misleading the public over their airfares must be named and shamed now rather than getting another four months to correct their pricing policy, Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins said yesterday.
"If the Commission maintains its position and allows the websites a further four months to rectify the problem, then the person who will be hardest hit in all of this will be the consumer," he said.
He added that the National Consumer Agency should follow the example of the Spanish consumer watchdog and actually publish its results.
Ryanair said it was confident that the EU probe would highlight the fact that over 50pc of seats were sold at the lowest two fares this year and the average fare of €44 was the lowest in Europe and half the price of Aer Lingus.
It said it was also the only airline to guarantee no fuel surcharges, and all the prices advertised on the website home page and in media ads were fully tax inclusive.
"Ryanair hasn't been contacted by the EU Commission as part of this alleged investigation but we would welcome any proposals by the Commission to force Europe's high fare airlines to match Ryanair's fares, our inclusive advertising, our low fare availability and our guarantee of no fuel surcharges ever," said Ryanair spokesman Peter Sherrard.