European low cost airline Ryanair has upped the ante in its fight against Google and eDreams after an advertising regulator upheld a complaint about the online travel agency.
Ryanair has been in a long-running battle against the pair, with accusations that Google is allowing eDreams to post misleading ads to consumers on the search engine.
The latest turn in the saga involves the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled this week that eDreams should cease using advertising language on Google that implies there is an official connection between it and both Ryanair and fellow LCC, EasyJet.
In upholding a complaint made last year, the ASA says:
"We considered the impression created by the web pages through the use of the corporate branding and repeated, more prominent references to 'EasyJet' and 'Ryanair' were likely to lead consumers to think they were visiting the official sites for these airlines."
As a result of the ASA statements, Ryanair says it wants Google to ban the "deceptive eDreams advertising until such time that eDreams stops misleading consumers by passing itself off as Ryanair".
The airline claims it has forwarded "hundreds" of complaints from passengers over the eDreams issue to Google, including directly to executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs says:
"We believe that Google has thus far failed to block this misleading advertising, precisely because it boosts Google’s advertising revenues by actively misleading consumers into believing they are booking tickets on Ryanair and/or other websites when in fact they are booking on a third party website."
For its part, responding to the ASA ruling, an eDreams official says:
"We are encouraged by the ASA’s acknowledgement that eDreams can use relevant search terms and that it can promote its services as an Online Travel Agency (OTA) through the use of search engine optimisation.
"We are keen to work with the ASA to ensure that there is never any potential confusion for customers when they search for flight availability on the eDreams website.
"There is no intention to imitate the appearance of specific airlines, as eDreams clearly indicates to its customers that they are on one of its own websites, rather than that of any airline, allowing them to view thousands of flight combinations in a matter of seconds to find the best value flights."
Ryanair says the ASA ruling will become part of its case against Google and eDreams, filed in the Irish Courts last year.
eDreams and sister brand Opodo are also currently the subject of an investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority over price transparency.