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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Online travel agent fined for pricing blunder

Source: Travel Mole

A $6000 fine imposed by a court on an online travel agent who misled a customer about airfares is a warning to the industry, Western Australia's consumer protection watchdog says.

The Commissioner for Consumer Protection brought two charges against Best Flights Pty Ltd, which operates www.bestflights.com.au, for breaches of the Fair Trading Act.

The online agent was fined $6000 and ordered to pay court costs, reported Perth Now.

The court heard a consumer went on the Best Flights website and found a Perth to Melbourne flight for $159 and a return flight at the same price.

But after proceeding to the booking stage the total cost was displayed as $579.20 as opposed to $318.

Best Flights refused to honour the $159 flight prices.

It conceded that a false representation was made but blamed pricing data received from the airline and a ticket booking system provider, which it said did not indicate pricing restrictions in relation to flight times.

The magistrate did not accept the defences and found Best Flights had not done enough to comply with its obligations under the Fair Trading Act to ensure information it passed onto consumers was correct.

WA's Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said the case was an important reminder to travel agents and other retailers that they could not advertise prices they were not prepared to honour.

The new Australian Consumer Law, which comes into full effect in January 2011, will mean even greater penalties for false and misleading representations, she warned.
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