ASA goes running to teacher in Ryanair spat

Anything you can do, we can do better: now the ASA has referred Ryanair to the Office of Fair Trading.

Last Updated: 27 Jul 2011

Days after Ryanair complained to the OFT that it’s being victimised by the Advertising Standards Authority (aka Absurd Silly Asses, its favoured interpretation of the ASA acronym), the regulator has taken the unusual step of referring the airline to the OFT. Ryanair now faces an investigation from the government office about the numerous complaints upheld against it in the last couple of years – almost all of which it disputes, of course.

It’s the first time in three years the ASA has referred a company to the OFT, and shows just how hacked off they are with Ryanair’s ‘uncompromising’ attitude towards advertising. ASA director general Christopher Graham said it was ‘very disappointing, but absolutely necessary that we have had to take this course of action,’ insisting that: ‘Ryanair’s approach has left us with no option’. In other words: we've had enough - now it's your turn....

The jist of the ASA’s submission to the OFT is that Ryanair has been ‘persistently misleading customers’ by exaggerating the amount of cheap flights available, not mentioning taxes and restrictions, refusing to prove their claims and ‘making misleading and denigratory comparisons with competitors’. Ryanair, slag off its rivals? Never…

One thing’s for sure: the Irish airline is unlikely to take this lying down. In its own complaint to the OFT on Friday (which now looks suspiciously like a pre-emptive strike), it gave a detailed explanation of exactly why five of the recent complaints against it were unjustified (not including the ad featuring President Sarkozy, for which the airline issued a grovelling apology). In fact, the airline said, the ASA had clearly ‘abandoned any attempt at independence or impartiality when ruling on Ryanair’s adverts’.

And on the evidence of this week, it’s got no intention of pulling in its horns just yet. On Monday it launched a high court appeal against the new landing charges at Dublin Airport, with CEO Michael O’Leary slamming the man in charge as a ‘regulatory poodle’; Cathal Guiomard, he opined, ‘has no credibility as an independent regulator and it is time he resigned or was dismissed’.

We reckon the prospect of spending the next few months fighting with Ryanair – and the inevitable stream of invective when it rules in support of the ASA – will be more than enough to induce the odd headache in OFT headquarters today...

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