The consumer protection watchdog has been contacted by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, over reports that some airlines are not offering customers refunds for trips cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
There has been a flood of reports on social media in the last few days of customers claiming to have been contacted by Ryanair and offered a voucher instead of a refund for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.
In a new email sent to some customers in recent days, the airline warned people seeking refunds that Covid-19 restrictions "prevent us from processing refunds as quickly as we would like to". It also includes details of travel vouchers which can be used for the "purchase of Ryanair flights and other servies at any time over the next 12 months".
A Ryanair spokesman said: "For any cancelled flight, Ryanair is giving customers all of the options set out under EU regulations, including refunds."
Under European Union law, passengers on cancelled flights must be offered the choice of a refund, rerouting at the earliest opportunity, or rerouting at a later date.
Minister Heather Humphreys told Newstalk’’s Pat Kenny Show that she has been in contact with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) over the issue following a spike in concerns in recent days.
"We are certainly looking at that matter," she said.
"The CCPC will certainly look at all of those issues and I am in conversation with them. It is important that people do get refunded for the cost of flights that were cancelled. They’’re entitled to their money back, obviously, under law so, therefore, they should get their money back."
On April 6, Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Shane Ross, confirmed he was exploring options, such as vouchers or credit notes, instead of refunds.
The Minister instructed his department to "finalise proposals that will help to alleviate the financial pressures that are now impacting on the travel sector in Ireland". Among the options was "the use of vouchers or some form of credit note for customer refunds in a way that does not materially erode consumer rights".
The Department did not respond to request for an update on this process.