Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair has hit out at Google for “misleading” search ads sending searchers to third-party booking sites and is calling on the search giant to enforce advertising transparency.
In a press release, the airline points to a search for term “Ryanair,” which returns an ad from what appears to be the official airline itself, but actually misleads customers into buying their flights from a so called ‘screen-scraper’ site.
The airline also sent out a tweet directed at the search giant:
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) October 6, 2015
Screenscraper websites such as eDreams have been paying for Google advertising to have their websites rank above the official Ryanair website on Google searches, which in turn is misleading Ryanair customers into visiting the eDreams website, masquerading as Ryanair.com, and in turn booking with eDreams.
Below is a screenshot of the eDreams site that Google links to:
Ryanair says sites such as eDreams have caused considerable problems for its customers, including failing or refusing to pass on information to the airline and passengers regarding details such as flight time changes, check-in information, special needs assistance, and contact information, which has resulted in missed flights in some cases.
The Irish airline has taken a series of successful court cases in a number of European countries to prevent screen-scraper sites from selling tickets on its flights without the carrier’s permission.
The Court of Hamburg recently ruled that eDreams has been using an unlawful subdomain and was misleading customers into thinking that it had an official partnership with Ryanair.
Ryanair urged customers to book directly on Ryanair.com and called on Google to enforce greater transparency on its advertising rules, to prevent European customers being misled and overcharged.
Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: “Ryanair has received numerous complaints from our customers who have inadvertently purchased Ryanair flights on the eDreams website, as a direct result of the misleading advertising provided by Google. EDreams has been unlawfully selling Ryanair flights, by masquerading as Ryanair.com, and then offering customers a substandard service, with additional fees, or by often selling fares that don’t even exist. While we have no issue with Google advertising in general, it is unfair that it is used as a mechanism to mislead customers.
“We would again urge customers to book directly on the Ryanair.com website to guarantee the lowest fares and best customer service. In the meantime, we call on Google to enforce greater transparency of its advertising to prevent any more customers from being misled and overcharged.”