OFT 'dragged into war' between Ryanair and ad watchdog

09-04-2008

OFT 'dragged into war' between Ryanair and ad watchdog
The relationship between the UK advertising watchdog and Ryanair was at breaking point on Wednesday when both parties referred the other to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The Advertising Standard Authority's (ASA) referral of the budget airline to the OFT was leaked last week but officially confirmed today.

A statement explained the ASA was "extremely concerned" about Ryanair's repeated violation of the advertising code.

The latest run-in between the watchdog and the airline came today when the ASA upheld its ninth complaint against Ryanair adverts released in the last two years.

Among the more high-profile disagreements between the two organisations was the ASA's criticism of Ryanair's "back to school" advert, featuring a model "provocatively" dressed as a schoolgirl.

Ryanair has already responded by itself referring the ASA to the UK consumer watchdog for "unfair procedures, bias and factually untrue rulings".

In its ruling released on Wednesday, the ASA rejected a Ryanair national press advert with the text: "January sale – two million seats from £10 one way, taxes and charges included, travel Monday to Sunday."

One complainant said he had been unable to find any discounted flights for Fridays or Sundays, and the ASA said Ryanair had refused to supply a percentage of £10 flights available on those two days.

But Ryanair, rejecting claims from the ASA it had provided just two booking forms, said it had not been contacted back after offering to supply examples of the cheap fares in batches of ten, 100, 1,000 or 10,000.

Explaining the referral, an ASA spokesperson said Ryanair had shown an "unwillingness and apparent inability" to comply with advertising code.

An OFT representative confirmed both cases would be examined and refused to rule out the prospect of court action.

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