Flight Centre fined over false ads
Flight Centre Travel Group has been whacked with more than $250,000 in fines by Australia's consumer watchdog after printing what was deemed to be "misleading" holiday advertisements.
The travel agent has paid $252,000 following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that found Flight Centre had misled customers during its 2018 Christmas and 2019 Easter promotions.
In both instances, Flight Centre advertised promotions in store and in print newspapers 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.
However, on the advertisements, Flight Centre had failed to disclose that redeeming the $250 voucher was subject to certain conditions – the most egregious of which was that consumers must book another holiday through the travel agent worth more than $5000.
Over 35,000 consumers received cash vouchers as part of these promotions.
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.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said the watchdog had valid concerns that Flight Centre had not done enough to make consumers aware of the voucher's conditions.
"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 $5000, when this was not adequately disclosed," Ms Court said.
"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."
Flight Centre is Australia's largest travel agency with retail stores across Australia, as well as New Zealand, Europe, North America, Hong Kong, China, South Africa and the UAE.
In a statement to 9news.com.au, Flight Centre said the promotion was not deliberate and it was working to rectify the vouchers with customers.
"The Flight Centre Travel Group has co-operated fully with the ACCC in relation to this issue, which 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," a spokesperson for the group said.
"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 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."
As well as the payment of the fines, Flight Centre has waived the $5000 minimum spend condition and extended the redemption period for vouchers provided as part of the 2018 Christmas promotion from June 30, 2019 until December 31, 2019.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.