Australia’s biggest travel agency has been penalised $252,000 after the consumer watchdog alleged it published misleading holiday promotions.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission slapped the travel retailer with two infringement notices for allegedly deceptive ads promoting holiday vouchers during the Christmas 2018 and Easter 2019 periods.
Flight Centre advertised the promotions in store and in newspapers, offering $250 vouchers to consumers who spent $1500 on a holiday package with the agency. The vouchers were redeemable on their next holiday booked through Flight Centre.
But the ACCC argued the ads were misleading and breached Australian Consumer Law because Flight Centre failed to disclose to consumers that redeeming the $250 voucher was subject to certain conditions. They included requiring consumers to book another holiday with Flight Centre worth more than $5000.
The ACCC was also concerned about the limited time frame offered for consumers to redeem the voucher, which it claimed 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 $5000, 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 Travel Group is the largest retail travel outlet in Australia, with operations in New Zealand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Hong Kong, India, China, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Mexico.
It’s ads 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,” Ms Court said.
Flight Centre has now waived the $5000 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.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law. The ACCC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.