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Watchdog head criticizes Ryanair’s new online fee

AFP , LONDON

The logo of airline Ryanair is projected onto the face of the company’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, at a press conference in Hamburg, Germany, on Oct. 28.

PHOTO: EPA

The head of Britain’s business watchdog hit out at Irish low-cost airline Ryanair yesterday for slapping a new fee on its customers, calling it “quite puerile,” a report said.

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) chief executive John Fingleton specifically criticized the carrier for charging online customers for using a common type of bank card, adding it was operating within “the narrow letter of the law.”

Ryanair advertises taxes and other fees upfront, but only mentions charges for paying by plastic at the end of a booking on the grounds that customers could escape the fee by using a less-common prepaid card, the Independent said.

The airline last month started charging the £5 (US$8) fee per passenger for a ticket bought using a commonly-used Electron card, which had previously been free, it said.

“Ryanair has this funny game where they have found some very low frequency payment mechanism and say: ‘Well, because you can pay with that [a more obscure card], then the charge is called optional,’” Fingleton said in an interview with the newspaper. “It’s almost like taunting consumers and pointing out: ‘Oh well, we know this is completely outside the spirit of the law, but we think it’s within the narrow letter of the law.’ On some level it’s quite puerile, it’s almost childish.”

Ryanair hit back, saying its customers had no complaints about paying for the low airfares for flights throughout Europe.

“Ryanair is not for the overpaid John Fingletons on this world, but for the everyday Joe Bloggs who opt for Ryanair’s guaranteed lowest fares because we give them the opportunity to fly across 26 European countries for free, £5 and £10,” Ryanair head of communications Stephen McNamara said.

The OFT is investigating the carrier, along with others and ticketing agencies, over online pricing and advertising, the paper said.

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