Australia’s competition regulator announced on Friday that it would ask the court for a fine of “Hundreds of millions” of dollars a day after he sued the airline for allegedly selling tickets for thousands of flights after they were cancelled.
Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claimed in court on Thursday that Qantas broke consumer law by selling tickets for more than 8,000 flights between May and July 2022 without disclosing that they had been cancelled.
The airline has said it will review the ACCC’s allegations and respond in court, saying the period under investigation by the regulator was a time of “unprecedented turbulence for the entire aviation industry”.
After Australia opened its borders in late 2021 as a result of the pandemic, Qantas has been the brunt of complaints about flight cancellations and lost luggage, largely due to staff shortages.
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“We will seek a sanction that underscores that this is not only a cost to doing business but also serves to deter behavior of this type,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb told ABC Radio. The maximum fine Qantas faces under Australian consumer law is 10% of its annual sales, which stood at A$19.8 billion in June.
Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC would seek a fine for Qantas “considerably higher” than the record A$125 million ($81 million) fine imposed on automaker Volkswagen in 2019 for breaching Australian consumer laws.
“We think these sanctions were too low. We believe the sanctions should be in the hundreds of millions, not tens of millions,” he added. “We want to more than double that number.”
The regulator said Qantas continued to sell tickets for an average of 16 days after canceling flights for reasons often within its control. He was selling tickets for a Sydney-San Francisco flight 40 days after the cancellation, Reuters reported.