Car hire firm claims Dublin Airport Authority trying to put it out of business

An online car hire business fears it will go out of business because the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) won't allow it to pick up its customers at the airport, the High Court has heard

The claims have been made by ER Travel Ltd, which trades under the name Easirent.com, and is part of a group of companies that offers online car rental services in the UK, the US as well as Ireland.

It has sued the DAA for damages over the on-going refusal by the DAA to allow it to collect its customers at the airport and take them to its offices 2km away where they pick up their rentals. The DAA denies the claims.

It says the company is carrying on unlicensed business activity at the airport's facilities which the DAA claims breaches by-laws governing the airport.

As part of its action, where it seeks damages against the DAA, Easirent seeks an injunction preventing the DAA from stopping the car hire business from collecting its customers from the airport's public car park.

The injunction, if granted would remain in place pending the final outcome of the action. The injunction application, which the DAA says should not be granted, is before Mr Justice Tony O'Connor.

The company commenced operations in 2016, employs 33 people and its offices are located 2.1km from the airport.

High O'Keeffe SC told the court that Easirent collects its customers from the airport and brings them to its offices where its customers pick up their rented cars.

Counsel said a few months after it started trading the DAA sent it a cease and desist letter.

The company found this strange as it does not operate in the airport.

In August 2016, counsel said the Airport Police, who work for the DAA, refused the company's employees access to the airport car park.

It also threatened taxi and hackney drivers that their licences would be revoked if they carried passengers who used Easirent.com's services.

There were other incidents, but things then settled down.

Last April, there was "an increased level of hostility from the DAA" when Easirent's drivers taking it customer's from the airport to its offices were again stopped, counsel said.

Counsel said this disturbance is having a "catastrophic" effect on his client's operations and claims there is a concerted effort by the DAA to "destroy its business".

Counsel said the DAA's actions are anti-competitive and are being carried out because his client, unlike other car hire companies, does not operate out of Dublin Airport and does not have a licence agreement with the DAA.

In a sworn statement to the court, the firm's Managing Director Paul Hanley said Airport Police have also been watching their activities away from the airport itself.

He said they "park outside our premises and they clearly give the impression of being concerned only with our activities and not with the Dublin Airport car park". This was very unsettling for his customers, he added.

The DAA, represented by James Doherty SC, opposes the application and said the claims concerning the alleged behaviour of the Airport Police are "vigorously denied".

It also says that no taxi nor hackney was told their licences would be revoked, as claimed.

It says that it has tried to resolve the ongoing breaches of the by-laws with the company, but said it has repeatedly informed Easirent that it is in breach of the by-laws.

Counsel said that the DAA position is that permission is required by any firm or entity wishing to pick up clients at the airport.

The case continues next week.

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