Ryanair agrees to give fairer contract terms

Out-Law News | 16 Nov 2006 | 10:50 am | 1 min. read

Ryanair has agreed to change its contract terms to give air travellers a fairer deal, following action against the budget airline by the Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT was concerned that Ryanair's terms excluded liability for damage to sporting equipment, such as golf clubs or skis, infant equipment, medical equipment and musical instrucments. The terms stated that these items were carried on a 'limited release basis' – in other words, at the passenger's own risk. Ryanair has now removed these exclusions of liability from its terms and conditions.

Ryanair's policy on lost luggage was also considered to be unfair by the OFT. Ryanair required that if an item of baggage was reported as lost and not found within 21 days, consumers would have to make a further claim within a further 21 days, otherwise Ryanair excluded liability for the lost baggage. In the OFT's view this relieved the airline of liability to a greater extent than permitted by the Montreal Convention which sets out airlines' liabilities for passengers and their baggage. Ryanair amended the terms so that the consumer is not required to make a further claim within the 21 day period, and also removed the requirement that consumers complete a 'Property Irregularity Report' when making a claim for damaged or delayed baggage, which the OFT also considered went beyond the provisions of the Montreal Convention.

In the event that flights are delayed or cancelled, the OFT was concerned that Ryanair's terms did not reflect consumers' full rights under the relevant EU Regulation. Ryanair has now amended these terms and included a copy of the notice setting out these rights on its website.

OFT Director of Services Ray Hall said: "'The OFT's action has secured improvements to Ryanair's terms that will benefit passengers. We expect other airlines using similar terms to stop doing so immediately. Continued use of such terms will be considered a breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999."

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations say that a consumer is not bound by a standard term in a contract with a seller or supplier if that term is unfair. They also give the OFT and certain other bodies powers to stop the use of unfair standard terms, if necessary by obtaining a court injunction. However, ultimately only a court can decide whether a term is unfair.