Court rules Ryanair misled customers

/ Source: The Associated Press

A British court ruled Wednesday that budget airline Ryanair misled customers about the price of some flights, but said it could keep listing before-tax fares as long as it warned customers it was doing so.

A Chelmsford Crown Court jury found the Dublin-based Ryanair Holdings PLC guilty of six breaches of the Consumer Protection Act for Web site promotions in which it omitted the words “excluding tax.”

Ryanair said the omission of that warning in six instances was accidental.

The jury said that in cases where the words “excluding tax” appeared, Ryanair was not guilty of misleading customers, validating its practice of advertising prices that don’t include tax.

The prosecution, led by Essex County Council’s trading standards officers, had argued that a Web site ad that promised “4.99 to Pisa excluding tax” violated the Consumer Protection Act because it didn’t quote the total price.

“This was an unnecessary action against Ryanair,” the company said in a statement. “This case was brought on the basis of no complaint by a member of the public. Our Web site page clearly shows consumers that prices quoted are exclusive of taxes and charges. The Web site also includes details of the taxes and charges to be paid by the consumer.”

The allegations related to the cost of flights from London Stansted airport, in Essex, to various European destinations.

Mike Hill, head of Essex Council’s trading standards department, said the council would press the national government to require Internet advertisements to quote prices that include tax.

Newspaper, television and billboard advertising must include tax in the prices they give, Hill said, and he had hoped the court would find that applied to Web sites too.

“We have tested the law and it has been found wanting,” he said. “What we want for consumers is simple. The price you see should be the price you pay.”

The court did not immediately say whether it would fine the airline for the violations.