Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Gina Cass-Gottlieb said she wants Qantas to face a fine of over $250m for selling tickets on already cancelled flights.
The ACCC launched action in the Federal Court of Australia alleging Qantas 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.
Speaking on Radio National this morning, Cass-Gottlieb was asked if she thought the national carrier should receive a penalty of $250m, double the current record penalty a company has received for breaching consumer law.
“We consider that this should be a record penalty for that conduct,” Cass-Gottlieb said.
She said the ACCC needed to ensure this high penalty to “deter conduct of this nature” and discourage companies considering actions of this nature.
She went on to say that companies were not currently scared enough from undertaking these kinds of actions.
“We think the penalties should be in the hundreds of millions, not tens of millions for breaches.”
The lawsuit alleges that for more than 10,000 flights scheduled to depart in May to July 2022, Qantas did not notify existing ticketholders that their flights had been cancelled for an average of about 18 days, and in some cases for up to 48 days. The ACCC alleges that Qantas did not update its “Manage Booking” web page for ticketholders to reflect the cancellation.
This conduct affected a substantial proportion of flights cancelled by Qantas between May to July 2022. The ACCC alleges that for about 70 per cent of cancelled flights, Qantas either continued to sell tickets for the flight on its website for two days or more, or delayed informing existing ticketholders that their flight was cancelled for two days or more, or both.
The fine comes after Qantas Group’s CEO Alan Joyce was the subject of a rigorous senate inquiry on Monday. The inquiry by a select senate committee saw Joyce on the back foot against allegations of corporate greed, interfering with government affairs and poor conduct during the pandemic.