Ryanair has taken aim at Google for what it sees as inadequate transparency around its advertising, which it claims companies are exploiting to charge customers higher fares.
The budget carrier called on Google to enforce greater transparency on its advertising rules to prevent European customers being misled and overcharged.
Its concern centres on the prominence of ‘screen-scraper’ websites which monitor fares on airlines’ official sites before reselling them on their own.
Websites such as eDreams have been paying for Google to rank their websites above the official Ryanair website in Google searches which, in turn, is misleading customers into booking with the screen-scraper site, Ryanair claims.
The airline said it has no issue with Google’s advertising generally but added that it is being used to mislead customers, which is unacceptable.
“Ryanair has received numerous complaints from our customers who have inadvertently purchased Ryanair flights on the eDreams website, as a direct result of the misleading advertising provided by Google,” said Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs.
“The eDreams site has been unlawfully selling Ryanair flights, by masquerading as Ryanair.com, and then offering customers a substandard service, with additional fees, or by often selling fares that don’t even exist.
“While we have no issue with Google advertising in general, it is unfair that it is used as a mechanism to mislead customers.”
Ryanair claims eDreams and other screen-scraper websites sometimes fail or refuse to pass vital information onto both customers and Ryanair regarding issues such as flight changes, web check-in, special needs assistance and contact details.
This has resulted in passengers missing their flights on occasion.
“Ryanair will continue to pursue screen-scraper websites such as eDreams to prevent Europe’s consumers from being misled over price and booking conditions,” said Mr Jacobs.
“In the meantime, we call on Google to enforce greater transparency of its advertising to prevent any more customers from being misled and overcharged.”
A spokesperson for eDreams said: “EDreams notes Ryanair’s latest attack on the fast-growing online travel agency sector.
"As an online travel agency, eDreams is perfectly entitled to sell Ryanair tickets, and the tickets of other airlines providing customers with much-needed choice and variety to the flight distribution market.
"Our sites deliver consumers with the ability to find the best prices and our services are supported by our proven, high customer satisfaction.
“It is also perfectly lawful for an online travel agency to use the AdWords service of Google in order to advertise flight booking services provided to its customers.
“Ryanair has been trying, without success, to prevent online travel agencies selling its tickets for the last 10 years, and they are now invoking new, ill-founded grievances.”
A Google spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved