Flight Centre today scored a huge victory over the ACCC when the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia upheld its appeal against a 2013 ruling that effectively found the travel retailer guilty of price-fixing.
The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has also been ordered to pay all legal costs incurred by Flight Centre over the past six years.
“We welcome today’s judgement and hope that it now brings this six-year saga to an end,” said Flight Centre Managing Director Graham Turner.
“As we said when the ACCC initiated this test case, for more than 30 years Flight Centre has sought to deliver cheaper airfares to the travelling public.
“As an agent, FLT asks for appropriate commissions from suppliers and also all reasonable access to all deals that they release to market.
“This is a logical and natural business request for an agent to make to ensure the customers it serves on behalf of airlines are not disadvantaged.
“Give that travel agents book up to 80% of international flights in Australia, it benefits consumers because it means special offers are not solely available from supplier (airline) websites.”
The ACCC alleged that Flight Centre had attempted to control airfare pricing on six occasions between 2005 – 2009 by demanding that airlines give it access to their full fare inventory.
In other words, Flight Centre did not want airlines to undercut it on pricing.
In the initial ruling, Flight Centre was fined $11m, which will now be repaid and included in the company’s results for 2015/16.