Could Ryanair be contractually held to their promise to give free flights for life to their millionth passenger?
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Ryanair and Ms Jane O'Keeffe
Where: June 2002
Previously on marketinglaw.co.uk we have reported the issuing of proceedings by Ms Jane O'Keeffe against budget airline Ryanair in Ireland. Ms O'Keeffe was the lucky one-millionth customer of the airline, and according to promotional material at the time put out by Ryanair, she was entitled to free flights on Ryanair for life. When Ryanair started to reduce her free flight entitlement to a maximum number per year Ms O'Keeffe sued for breach of contract. Ryanair defended on the basis that there was no contract as such formed between Ryanair and Ms O'Keeffe and so there could be no breach of any contractual term. Mr Justice Peter Kelly of the Dublin High Court thought differently and agreed with Ms O'Keeffe that Ryanair's subsequent restrictions on the 1997 promotion prize were a breach of contract. He awarded Ms O'Keeffe £43,098 damages.
Why this matters:
In the UK, in Ireland and in most if not all other EU states following recent changes to the law in Germany , the 21st century position is clear when it comes to promotion marketing. Promoters should not assume that prize winners will gratefully accept whatever the promoter decides should be their entitlement, and the courts will not be slow to find that a contract exists between promoter and participant. This makes it critical that any terms and conditions or limitations on the promotion or the prize that is offered, are made crystal clear in rules which are readily accessible to the punter before the point at which any purchase is made in reliance. Apart from "Free flights for life" prizes, other prizes where particular care is needed in drafting the rules are travel/holiday packages.