While I was walking my Camino de Santiago, I received a lengthy email from the British Office of Fair Trading [OFT], in response to my blog: Ryanair, Online Check-In Fees, the Office of Fair Trading and 'Fixed Non-Optional Costs'
The most important points of the email are outlined below:
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the Regulations) ban traders from using unfair commercial practices that either do, or are likely to, distort consumer's decisions and sets out broad rules outlining when commercial practices are unfair.
It is, however, important to note that only a court can decide if a practice is unfair within the meaning of the Regulations.
The OFT and our enforcement partners have a duty to enforce the Regulations and have at their disposal a range of tools to ensure that businesses comply with them.
This does not mean that enforcement action must be taken in respect of each and every infringement.
[The OFT] will generally take action in cases where the unlawful practices causes or risks significant consumer detriment nationally, or across a significant region, or where the case has an international dimension.
- [The OFT] took action in 31 July 2007 against a number of airlines that did not include fixed, non-optional costs in prices displayed on their websites. Following this, a number of airlines agreed to change their websites to ensure that their prices included fixed, non-optional costs.
- We are aware of ongoing concerns about the way certain airlines currently display prices and we are considering these. Please be assured that we are taking these concerns seriously.
So, there's good news and bad news in there. On the one hand, the OFT knows about concerns and are 'taking these concerns seriously'. On the other hand, they admit they can't always prosecute.
It remains to be seen if Ryanair goes through with this 'non-optional fee' in its current guise. At present, Ryanair doesn't break such regulations and even took their site offline for several days last year to step in line, costing them millions - it would be surprising if they would risk having to do this again. Evidence that Ryanair is doing its best to stick to the letter of the law can be seen in their recent decision to to ask passengers opt in, not out, of travel insurance, so there is still hope.
If you have feel you have been treated badly by Ryanair, see this page about Making a Ryanair Complaint. If you've never flown with Ryanair and you don't know what all the fuss is about, read this article from The Times in the UK about Twenty Reasons Never to Fly Ryanair.
See also: Ryanair vs easyJet Price Comparison
Update: Ryanair got in contact recently and kindly agreed to answer my questions, including one about the Ryanair Web Check-In Fee. You can read all of their responses here: Questions to Ryanair