The Italian Antitrust Authority has fined Ryanair and easyJet for issuing vouchers instead of reimbursing passengers for cancelled flights.
Ryanair has been fined €4.2 million and easyJet €2.8 million. Spanish low-cost carrier Volotea has also been fined €1.4 million.
All the fines are for “unfair commercial practices”, according to the authority but Ryanair and easyJet said they will appeal against the decision.
In a statement about Ryanair, the authority said: “The company, once the travel restrictions related to the Covid-19 emergency ceased, had not reimbursed consumers the cost of tickets for flights cancelled after June 3, 2020.”
It said the three airlines “engaged in a seriously improper conduct” by continuing to issue vouchers without refunding the cash paid for the cancelled tickets.
It added: “Furthermore, misleading and omissive information has been provided to consumers about their rights and the recognition of the monetary reimbursement has been hindered and delayed, through methods and procedures to induce – and in some cases even force – the consumer to choose and / or accept the voucher instead of refund.”
In a statement, easyJet said: “easyJet strongly believes that it has always acted fairly and complied with all the ever-changing applicable laws.
“easyJet firmly disagrees with the AGCM’s [L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato] findings and it considers the final decision absolutely groundless: for these reasons, easyJet will appeal against the decision.
“Throughout the pandemic, easyJet has continued to improve its customer policies from paying refunds more quickly to helping customers to self-serve more easily, as well as providing customers with more flexibility than ever before with our Protection Promise which enables customers to change their flights fee-free up to two hours before their flight and providing refunds when their trip is impacted by government restrictions.
“We are processing our customer refunds within seven days in full compliance with the law.”
A Ryanair spokesperson said the airline has instructed lawyers to appeal against this decision.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis Ryanair has fully complied and will continue complying with government travel restrictions,” said a statement from Ryanair.
“Ryanair acted in full compliance with EU261 requirements and EC Guidelines on Passenger Rights in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to any cancellations that occurred from March 2020.
“Customers affected by these cancelled flights have been offered all options in compliance with EU law, including free moves, refunds in the form of cash or vouchers as an additional choice, subject to the passenger’s acceptance.”