Ryanair has initiated legal action against Google and online travel agent eDreams. The Irish low-cost airline aims to stop the two from "false advertising practices" and "deceiving consumers", according to CEO Michael O'Leary.
eDreams, with headquarters in Spain, operates a "copycat website" with Ryanair's branding and offers "non-existent Ryanair fares" and "dupes" travellers into thinking they are booking flights directly with the airline, Ryanair said.
O'Leary said his company recently won a court ruling against the travel agent in Germany over its website and it will pursue legal challenges in the UK, Italy and Spain as well.
Ryanair said eDreams's adverts regularly appeared at the top of Google's search rankings, above its own website, because of which travellers would purchase flight tickets from the agent instead of the carrier's website. The Irish company believes that by promoting eDreams's adverts, Google is breaching its own code of conduct.
"They are literally misleading thousands of consumers here. We don't have a problem with Google accepting advertising money from eDreams. But sell advertising in a transparent manner that doesn't mislead consumers" O'Leary said.
Ryanair said the airline has complained to Google, and O'Leary has even written a mail to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet. The airline said it filed a legal challenge in the Irish High Court after failing to get any response from the internet giant and eDreams.
Over the last three months, Ryanair said it has received more than 3,000 complaints from consumers who booked tickets through eDreams and were charged hidden fees by the travel agent. O'Leary said eDreams also failed to provide customer information to Ryanair, besides not notifying passengers about changes in flights. It also did not process baggage fees properly, he added.
An eDreams spokesman said the company strongly disagrees with Ryanair's position and said the legal move was another step by the airline to stop online travel agencies from providing consumers best fares and choices for air travel.