The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has called out all four of Australia’s major airlines for misleading customers about their right to a refund. In addition, Jetstar has been fined $1.95 million for making false and misleading representations about its passengers’ rights.
The ACCC alleges that Jetstar falsely claimed on its website that certain fares were not refundable unless a bundle was purchased. It also claims Jetstar’s terms and conditions made representations that the Australian Consumer Law did not apply to Jetstar flights. (It does.)
Qantas, Virgin Australia and Tigerair have also been pinged for claims that certain fare types were non-refundable. Tigerair was also criticised for telling customers they would have to pay a “refund admin fee” to get their money back. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has been singled out for offering customers only a travel credit when they were entitled to a full refund.
At the request of the ACCC, all four airlines have now made changes to their websites. Each website now contains information about passenger rights under Australian Consumer Law. Wording such as “non-refundable” has also been changed.
Under Australian Consumer Law, airline passengers are entitled to a full refund (or other remedy) if their flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, and is no longer suitable. There is some debate about what constitutes a reasonable delay. And airlines may get some wriggle-room if the delay is caused by factors outside the airline’s control, such as weather events. But in general, if your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund – and not just a travel credit.
Australian Consumer Law does not guarantee you a refund if you change your mind and no longer want to travel. (This is what flexible airfares are for.) It also does not entitle you to compensation for minor delays and schedule changes. Rather, it guarantees that you’re not penalised if the airline makes a significant change to your flight and it is no longer fit for purpose.
Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia are all now in the process of contacting some impacted passengers to offer refunds. But even if you’re not contacted, you may still be entitled to compensation if you believe you’ve been unjustly denied a refund for a flight cancelled by the airline.
This announcement follows a year-long ACCC investigation into unfair airline contracts.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Australia’s 4 major airlines forced to make changes to refund policies in significant win for travel