Low-cost airline Ryanair has been ordered to pay £2m ($2.43m) to online travel agency On the Beach for refunds paid over cancelled flights, by the High Court of Justice in the UK.
The online travel agency brought the action in October 2021 after paying customers refunds for cancelled or significantly affected Ryanair flights during the pandemic and had asked for a summary judgment, with the judge ruling that the airline had no real prospect of defending the claim that it was obliged to refund the money to On the Beach.
On the Beach CEO Shaun Morton welcomed the decision and said it emphasised the industry’s responsibility to holidaymakers over refunds: “On the Beach is committed to doing the right thing for its customers and provided full cash refunds for flights that were cancelled or subject to major changes during the pandemic, whether or not airlines had complied with their obligations.
“We continue to call on the CMA to review the anti-competitive behaviour by certain low-cost airlines, protecting consumer choice with fair access to flights and a code of conduct for airlines and travel agents. It has taken a protracted and expensive legal process to reach today’s outcome, which could and should have been avoided.”
Despite rising between 2019 and 2020, mentions of the word “bookings” in Ryanair’s company filings have dropped overall each year since 2021, when On the Beach first filed its lawsuit, according to GlobalData’s company filings database.
The online agency’s call for the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) particularly agitated Ryanair, leading CEO Michael O’Leary to describe the company as “hypocritical” and claim that the company used fake credit cards, emails and phone numbers to book travel for customers on the Ryanair website.
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In a quote published before the high court ruling, O’Leary said: “If Shaun Morton and his screenscraping pirate, On the Beach, want to call for “fair play”, then they should start first with their own website.
“Ryanair does not (contrary to the false claims of Shaun Morton) deny consumers choice. We have offered to licence OTA’s like On the Beach, but only if they agree not to scam customers for inflated airfares or inflated ancillary services."
O'Leary further continued: “Overcharging OTA’s such as On the Beach reject this licence offer, which is why they continue to scam consumers for inflated airfares and inflated ancillary services. They then use fake credit cards and fake customer email addresses to cover up their hypocrisy and duplicity.”
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