Travel Agents

Flight Centre cops $252,000 fine over misleading ads

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Flight Centre has paid a $252,000 in penalties over alleged misleading advertisements promoting holiday vouchers.

According to a release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Flight Centre advertised promotions in-store and in print newspapers over Christmas 2018 and Easter 2019 offering $250 vouchers to consumers who spent $1500 on a holiday package with Flight Centre. The vouchers were redeemable on their next holiday booked through Flight Centre.

The ACCC said it had grounds to believe the advertisements were liable to mislead and breached the Australian Consumer Law because Flight Centre failed to disclose to consumers that redeeming the $250 voucher was subject to certain conditions. These conditions included requiring consumers to book another holiday with Flight Centre worth more than $5,000.

The ACCC was also concerned about the limited time frame offered for consumers to redeem the voucher, which also wasn’t properly disclosed to consumers.

“We are concerned that consumers were enticed to purchase their holiday through Flight Centre to obtain a voucher they were not able to use without spending another $5,000 when this was not adequately disclosed,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

Over 35,000 consumers received cash vouchers as part of these promotions.

Flight Centre told Travel Weekly in a statement that it has co-operated fully with the ACCC and that the issue “was not deliberate and arose predominantly as a result of inadvertent and unauthorised changes or abbreviations to a Flight Centre brand promotional campaign’s conditions”.

“The company waived the applicable conditions and directly contacted customers who may have been affected to ensure no one was disadvantaged as a result of any misunderstanding that may have arisen about the promotional campaign,” the statement read.

“The company has also taken steps to reduce the risk of similar issues occurring in the future, including by developing additional review processes for its marketing and promotion campaigns.”

This isn’t the first time Flight Centre has faced scrutiny from the ACCC, with the travel giant copping a whopping 12.5 million fine in April last year when it lost its long-running legal battle with the consumer watchdog over alleged price-fixing.

Flight Centre’s advertisements appeared in print newspapers and on digital screens across about 700 stores for the Christmas promotion and 800 stores for the Easter promotion.

“Businesses are warned that the terms and conditions of any deal or promotion must be prominent so that consumers understand what is involved in redeeming the offer,” Court said.

Flight Centre has now waived the $5,000 minimum spend condition and extended the redemption period for vouchers provided as part of the 2018 Christmas promotion from 30 June 2019 until 31 December 2019. Vouchers provided as part of the 2019 Easter promotion are also able to be used until 31 December 2019.

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