Ryanair and ASA agree. Well sort of…

Yes this is the shock news that Ryanair and the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) at last agree on something. Both have welcomed news of the completion of the UK Office of Fair Trading’s consideration of the ASA’s referral over the clarity of Ryanair’s website and advertisting - which has resulted in the Irish budget carrier taking a number voluntary steps to increase the clarity and transparency of its website (details here). Both welcomed it, but seem to have slightly different takes on it…

Here is the ASA statement“Following the ASA’s referral of Ryanair in 2008 for repeated breaches of the non-broadcast Advertising Code and for refusal to co-operate with the self-regulatory system, we welcome the conclusion of the OFT’s investigation and the progress that has been made.”

While Ryanair says: “Ryanair welcomes today’s OFT announcement which concluded this referral. We were happy to make the minor adjustments recommended by the OFT to improve our website and advertising.  Ryanair is pleased with the OFT’s conclusion of this case which confirms Ryanair’s belief that there was no substance to the ASA’s original referral, and we welcome the fact that the OFT has dismissed the ASA’s request ‘to consider taking action against the budget airline Ryanair.”

So lets give the last word to the OFT. “We welcome Ryanair’s action which we believe will make it easier for consumers to access the information they need when choosing low cost flights,” says OFT director of consumer markets, Mike Haley.

For more on the long-running spat between Ryanair and ASA, here’s a story I wrote for out premium news service Air Transport Intelligence back in April last year…

Ryanair advertising spat heads for consumer-trading body

Graham Dunn, London (04Apr08, 15:04 GMT, 389 words)

Irish budget carrier Ryanair has submitted a formal complaint to the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) about rulings from the UK advertising regulator following the latest in a number of recent decisions upholding complaints about its adverts.

The action is a counter to the UK‘s Advertising Standards Agency which has itself referred Ryanair to the trading organisation.

The two sides have been at loggerheads over a series of adverts over the last two years which has seen the ASA uphold a number of complaints about elements of recent Ryanair adverts – rulings contested by the Irish carrier.

Both have lodged complaints to the OFT after the ASA upheld a seventh complaint, details of which the ASA will publish on 9 April. It relates to January adverts supporting a seat sale. Ryanair says the decision is the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for the airline.

“We are fed up and it is time to take it to a higher authority. We looked to challenge in the courts and we were told it was not something you can put in the domain of the courts,” explains a Ryanair spokesman of the decision to write to the OFT. “We want them to adjudicate on these adverts in a fair and impartial manner.”

The airline says the ASA has ruled against a Ryanair seat sale advert, which offered 2 million seats for £10 ($20). It claims the ruling is in response to a complaint from someone who “could not remember” details of the booking, and came despite the ASA‘s accepting that there were 2 million seats available at £10.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says: “In this latest ruling the ASA has denied Ryanair fair procedures, has ignored Ryanair‘s evidence and it has pursued a complaint which has no evidential basis whatsoever. This clearly confirms the ASA‘s bias and blind determination to rule against Ryanair adverts.”

The Irish carrier has published details of correspondence between the two on its website and a letter from the ASA on 28 March reveals its decision to uphold the complaint. It also mentions its referral of the carrier to the OFT over its “unwillingness and apparent inability” to comply with rules against misleading advertising over the past two years.




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