Airlines deny fees mislead customers

MARIANNA PAPADAKIS
Last updated 10:33, August 21 2014
HIDDEN FEES: Jetstar and Virgin are being accused of misleading customers by failing to adequately disclose a booking and service fee.

HIDDEN FEES: Jetstar and Virgin are being accused of misleading customers by failing to adequately disclose a booking and service fee.

Jetstar is being accused of failing to tell passengers about extra fees in an Australian court.

Airlines said the fees they charge on flight bookings are common and have been used for more than a decade, in their defence to an ­Australian Competition and Consumer Commission court case they are ­misleading consumers.

Jetstar’s barrister, Matthew Darke, told the Australian Federal Court that the history and prevalence of booking fees would be presented to the court as part of its defence to allegations of drip pricing.

The charges were common industry practice and had been used in one form or another by airlines including Qantas and Rex since it was introduced by Qantas in 2003.

“The familiarity of consumers with booking and service fees and like charges has the potential to bear on the issue of what consumers are likely to understand of what a website is likely to convey,” Darke said.

The evidence could require the reconstruction by an expert of the websites in their historical form, he said.

The ACCC is bringing action against Jetstar alleging it misled customers by failing to adequately disclose a booking and service fee for particular types of payments in its advertising.

The ACCC is bringing the same action against Virgin.

Jetstar, and its owner Qantas, denies that its website did not adequately disclose booking fees relating to its flights.

The airline argues its website reveals that some payment methods for its flights incur a fee and customers have a choice as to whether to pull out before committing to the transaction.

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Customers were required to pay an extra A$8.50 (NZ$9.43) for domestic flights if ­payment was made by a credit card that was not a Jetstar credit card or by PayPal.

The ACCC argues the airlines’ conduct amounts to drip pricing, where the actual price is higher at the end of the transaction compared with the advertised price because of extra fees and charges added incrementally during the booking process.

The matter was set down for a pre-trial conference on November 17.

Judge Melissa Perry said the Jetstar and Virgin matters were likely to proceed together rather than sequentially.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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