Tag Archives | Broadcasting Complaints Commission

Misleading advertising on Ryanair.com – who can stop it?

Irish News of the World

Sunday May 24th, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Question:

I was on the Ryanair website recently where I saw flights advertised to Poland for €22.79, but when I went through the process to book, the final price was €54.99, plus taxes of €22.79. I couldn’t find any flights at the €22.79. Is there something I can do about this because I’m sick of Ryanair misleading people.

Answer:

The standard response to queries such as this is that when originally offered, there were some flights available at the special offer price, and then depending on demand, the prices went up.

Normally, complaints about misleading advertising can be sent to the statutory Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC), or as is most common at the moment, to the self-regulating Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI).

Both these organisations can do little once an advert is broadcast apart from giving a slap on the wrist and maybe in the case of the BCC, requesting that the advertiser provide a clarification or correction.

In this particular example however, as the information you read was on the companies own website, neither the BCC nor the ASAI have any jurisdiction.

The EU are trying to enforce airline pricing regulations for websites at the moment but this focus on how prices are structured as you’re buying your flight, rather than on advertising on the sites themselves.

So, while you would hope that companies would provide accurate information about their products and prices on their website, there’s actually nothing that we can do if they don’t – apart from highlighting it to others and avoiding using them if we feel strongly about what they’re doing.

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How are airlines getting around unfair advertising complaints?

I don’t hold much faith in the self-regulating Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), and I don’t believe that our 2 major airlines pay much attention to their decisions, but I suppose if the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) ever got any teeth, they might be more concerned with providing accurate advertising.

The last findings from the ASAI contain two complaints that were upheld against Aer Lingus and Ryanair where people went to search for sites on the basis of advertising, but found no flights at the prices advertised.

And how are airlines getting around the potential issue raised by these complaints – they’re now changing their advertising to showing “% off” rather than giving an actual price.

Do you know what the standard price of a flight to London is with Ryanair or Aer Lingus – particularly given the huge variety of prices offered given previous special offers, demand and the times of departure.

With that in mind, how could you ever expect to know what to pay if Ryanair are offering 66% off, or Aer Lingus are offering 20% off flights to the US, or Aer Arann are offering 25% off all flights.

This is just one more way in which airlines are muddying the waters when it comes to pricing flights and subverting guidelines instituted to try to make this pricing clearer for consumers.

By moving away from showing absolute prices to these “% off”, these companies have once more found their way around those useless organisations (national and EU) that are supposed to be looking after our interests.

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Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland – more useless regulation

For anyone who’s not familiar with their work, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) is somewhere you can go if you have a complaint about paid advertising in the media. I

I was talking to a few people about some ASAI recent decisions in the past few days, and the “punchline” of this article was something that not many of these people were aware of. I’m going to come back to the ASAI in the coming days, but here’s some information you should know about why the ASAI is yet another useless Irish regulator – though in this case not one devised by our Government.

The ASAI are what are termed “self-regulators“. It’s advertising people overseeing complaints about advertising. When it comes to the legal or medical profession there’s always loud calls to end the practice of self-regulation – advertising isn’t as critical, but self-regulation is still just as pointless when it comes to true consumer protection.

The ASAI will entertain complaints from the public regarding advertising in most media – newspapers and magazines, outdoor posters, radio and television advertising, and other types of paid promotional advertising materials. However, as the ASAI is a voluntary code, any decisions or recommendations made by the ASAI about advertising complaints actually mean nothing, aren’t binding, and can be ignored without any sanction.

If you have a complaint about radio or tv advertising, the place you should go is the Broadcasting Complaints Commission instead of the ASAI. The BCC oversee advertising rules under the “General Advertising Code” instituted by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. I’m not saying either of these Government quangos (why do we need two in this area?) are much better – I’ve no experience of either – but they should at least provide complete independence.

With regards to the remaining advertising mediums, the key item to be aware of is that the ASAI claims only claims oversight where the advertising is paid for by an advertiser to a third party. For this reason, the ASAI claims no oversight over internet websites (rightly of course).

However, I don’t think that such an intricacy is well known – there’s no point in complaining to the ASAI about any claims made on a company website.

This essentially means that any company can say anything that they like about their products or services on their websites with out any fear of comeback from anyone. They’re not obliged to be truthful or accurate in any way, as long as it’s only said on their websites.

Just something to be aware of when you’re searching for information on the internet.

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