Qantas Should Be Fined Hundreds Of Millions If Found Guilty Of Misleading Ads: ACCC

Qantas Should Be Fined Hundreds Of Millions If Found Guilty Of Misleading Ads: ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, has said that Qantas should be fined hundreds of millions of dollars if found guilty of misleading customers by advertising flights that had already been cancelled.

Speaking on ABC Radio National, Cass-Gottlieb noted the current record penalty for a breach of Australia’s consumer law was $125m. It was issued to Volkswagen in 2019 for deceiving customers over diesel emissions.

She said that if found in breach of the law, Qantas should face a fine significantly higher.

Host Patricia Karvelas asked Cass-Gottlieb: “Are you talking over $300 million?”

Cass-Gottlieb replied: “We would want to get to more than twice that figure.”

The Guardian has approached the ACCC to clarify whether Cass-Gottlieb meant more than $600 million – double the figure Karvelas suggested – or more than $250 million, which is twice the current record penalty.

The ACCC announced that it would be taking legal action against Qantas yesterday, alleging that the airline had engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct, by advertising tickets for more than 8,000 flights that it had already cancelled but not removed from sale between May and July last year.

“The ACCC has conducted a detailed investigation into Qantas’ flight cancellation practices. As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,” said Cass-Gottlieb.

“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been cancelled.”

The ACCC began investigating Qantas cancellations after it received a number of complaints. Qantas was the most complained about company in the past two financial years, the ACCC said, and half of the 2,600 or so complaints last year were related to cancelled flights.

For each breach, Qantas faces maximum penalties of either $10 million – three times the total benefits obtained from the behaviour – or 10 per cent of the corporation’s annual turnover, whichever is the greater amount.

Qantas said in a statement that it takes the allegations “seriously” and that it has a “longstanding approach to managing cancellations for flights, with a focus on providing customers with rebooking options or refunds” and that its process is consistent with many other airlines.

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