Christmas has come early for the ACCC, Australia’s competition and consumer law watchdog, who have notified Jetstar of a near $2 million fine for misleading customers.
Santa Claus came knocking on the door of the offices of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) quite early.
Jetstar, and other airlines like Qantas and Tigerair, have come under fire from the consumer law regulator. The low-cost airline made claims on its website that customers could only get a refund if they purchased a more expensive fare. They also said that standard consumer guarantees didn’t apply to its flights.
The ACCC commenced penalty proceedings against Jetstar over these series of violations. An agreement of a $1.95 million fine was concluded between the two parties. It has now been submitted to the Federal Court of Australia to be approved.
They are not the only ones. Tigerair told customers they could only get a refund if they paid a “refund administration fee”. Virgin claimed that no refunds were available on some fares. They also said they could only get 12-month credit vouchers. Qantas may also have misled consumers to some degree, saying guarantees did not apply to its flights.
The ACCC released a detailed report in December 2017 which examined a range of issues arising out of the airline sector. This was after having received over 1,400 consumer complains from January 2016 to December 2017. Many of which concerned consumer guarantees.
Now, all four airlines have changed their websites. They all contain information about passenger rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The words “non-refundable” have also been amended.
Customers should not be misled by ‘no refund’ statements. If you buy goods and services, you have rights under the ACL that cannot be avoided or restricted by a contract. You are entitled to a full refund if your flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, although there is some uncertainty about what is a ‘reasonable’ delay. You cannot get a refund in all circumstances, like if you change your mind.
“No matter how cheap the fares are, airlines cannot make blanket statements to consumers that flights are non-refundable,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims announced. It is important to understand your rights when contracting with airlines, and it is equally important for airlines to understand them so as to avoid these penalties.
Main photo used under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr user.