Ryanair has launched a new broadside against Google in its battle with other websites selling its flights, accusing the internet firm of profiting at the expense of consumers through misleading adverts and paid-for search results.
The airline called on businesses in the UK and Europe to stand up to Google over practices that it claims breach trust, confuse customers and make firms lose out.
Ryanair has been particularly incensed that eDreams, a Spain-based travel booking firm, is displayed first on Google searches for Ryanair, returning a url that includes the airline’s name. It says passengers complain every month when experiencing problems with their travel after booking with the intermediary, as well as having paid unnecessarily higher prices.
Writing in the Guardian, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said Google was allowing businesses to gain advantages from confusing customers. “It’s a very common occurrence across most industries … Ryanair has no issue with Google lawfully selling advertising, but some advertising … leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.”
He continued: “Ultimately, it comes down to trust, a value Google professes to espouse … If Google wants to deliver on its own promise to give consumers the best search results, it needs to get back to where it started and give consumers more reliable search results.
“More businesses in the UK and Europe need to stand up to Google and it’s mostly small businesses that lose out, given this is their biggest advertising output.”
Jacobs admitted that what he called Google’s “computer says no” attitude was redolent of Ryanair of old, but added: “We’ve recognised we needed to change and then did.”
Ryanair launched legal action in the Irish high court last December to attempt to force Google to change the search results. Its main rival, EasyJet, has also complained about eDreams, warning that passengers who book their flights through third-party websites risk not having their details correctly registered and having problems when travelling.
eDreams has accused Ryanair of attempting to stop online travel agencies from offering consumers choice in booking flights. A spokesperson said it was “keen to ensure that there is never any potential confusion for customers when they search for flight availability on the eDreams website... A small minority of airlines are trying but failing to stand in the way of consumers increasingly using comparison sites like ours.”
Google declined to comment on Ryanair’s latest call, noting that litigation was ongoing, although a spokesman said it was working closely with advertiser partners to make sure their ads do not mislead users.
This article was written by Gwyn Topham, for theguardian.com on Friday 8th April 2016 13.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010