By failing to offer its customers an online complaints service, budget airline Ryanair is in breach of European Union rules, according to the European Commission.

Under the European E-commerce Directive, any company selling goods online must offer customers the opportunity to complain via e-mail. Ryanair currently has no e-mail contact listed on its website, instead requiring disgruntled customers to contact them by fax, letter or premium rate telephone number for urgent inquiries.

In a letter to a Member of the European Parliament, the Commission said that this failure to provide an e-mail address breached Article 5 of the directive and it falls to Ireland's consumer rights authority, the National Consumer Agency, to investigate and ensure that the rules are enforced.

Ryanair claims that passengers accept that all complaints must be made in writing when they click on the terms and conditions to make a booking. The airline added that almost all complaints are handled within seven days and that they receive fewer complaints than most airlines. Skeptics argue that this is precisely because Ryanair makes complaining more difficult by not providing an e-mail address.

Any Commission decision to aggressively enforce the directive is likely to have a positive outcome for online consumers as national authorities make sure that companies comply with the rules.