A UK regulator has forced online travel agency group eDreams Odigeo to improve the display of fares on the websites of eDreams and Opodo.
In a ruling announced this week, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it has been given assurances that the two OTAs will make changes to their websites to ensure prices are displayed transparently.
The action comes almost 12 months after the CAA launched an investigation into the pair after they allegedly had failed to address previous concerns regarding their websites and pricing strategies.
That particular probe had coincided with increased tension between eDreams Odigeo and Ryanair after the airline had said it would see both the agency group and Google in the courts over ongoing "misleading advertising" on the search giant.
Central to that battle is the use by eDreams of subdomains and a "copycat website" with Ryanair branding to "deceive consumers into visiting the eDreams website" which, in turn, then secures tickets for the carrier’s flights.
An eDreams Odigeo official says:
"At eDreams and Opodo we are focused on making it as quick and easy as possible for the 17M customers who book with us every year to find the best value and most convenient travel options.
"We have been working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and we’re pleased that they recognise the work we have done to make our customer experience smoother and clearer.
"We are now offering a new price display so that our customers can more easily compare the prices of their travel options, to continue getting the best and most convenient deals."
Ryanair says it welcomes the ruling, but has challenged the CAA to come down harder on what it calls the "eNightmares" brand.
The airline claims eDreams continues to advertise and sell "non-existent Ryanair fares", adding that it has "no issue" with OTAs that display fares through a licensing agreement in a "transparent manner".
Such "screen-scraping websites", as it calls them, cause problems for the airline as they allegedly impose extra charges and fail or refuse to pass on information to passengers and Ryanair regarding flight changes, check-in and contact information, and other details.
Chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, says the changes will "help prevent more customers being misled". but points out that it has no commercial agreement with eDreams or Opodo, "who continue to engage in unauthorised screenscraping and sell on Ryanair’s low fares at inflated prices".
"We call on the CAA to take further action to stop eDreams and Opodo from advertising non-existent fares, which are then inflated through additional charges and we again urge customers to book directly on the Ryanair website."
In response, eDreams Odigeo says the airline "misleading the public with its claims about eDreams".
"Our customers have full visibility of the available fares and any charges before they book, and can receive information about flight changes, such as delays or cancellations, through our free mobile app.
"We have been working closely with the CAA and we’re pleased that they recognise the work we have done to make our customer experience smoother and clearer.
The company also claims Ryanair will soon be undergoing a CAA investigation into its own "unfair charges", as well as facing a class action lawsuit from over 5,000 "unhappy consumers on the same issue".
"They would be wise to spend their time on improving the way they treat their own customers, instead of standing in the way of consumers using sites like eDreams to get the best deal and the most convenient combination of flights."