AirAsia probed by Australian competition watchdog

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am


AirAsia, the regional low-cost airline, is being investigated by a competition watchdog in Australia after it allegedly failed to properly display all-in ticket prices for flights on a raft of routes including services to Chinese cities including Macau. It faces fines that could run to millions of Australian dollars if convicted.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission confirmed it had launched legal proceedings against AirAsia in Melbourne's federal court claiming the airline's Australian website did not show air fare prices inclusive of all taxes, duties, fees and other charges. The agency said: 'Businesses that choose to advertise a part of the price of a particular product or service must also prominently specify a single total price.'

The commission said the alleged mispricing took place on 13 services, including the routes between Melbourne and Macau, Hangzhou and Chengdu, and between Perth and Hangzhou and Taipei.

The commission said it was seeking financial and other penalties, including an injunction to stop AirAsia from 'engaging in misleading conduct in the future' and a court order that would force the airline to publish 'corrective notices on its websites regarding the conduct'.

Commission spokesman Duncan Harrod said the airline could be fined up to A$1.1 million (HK$8.95 million) per 'occurrence'. He said it was up to the court to decide what qualified as an 'occurrence' but they could include 'individual flights or routes'.

He was unable to confirm when the alleged breaches of the 2010 consumer law took place.

Harrod said an initial court hearing would take place on March 2, when lawyers for both sides are expected to submit a timetable for the submission of documents related to the allegation. He was unable to say when a trial against the airline would start.

AirAsia said it had launched an internal investigation into the allegations by the competition and consumer commission that inclusive fares were not given on its website.

'The allegations are related to specific routes from Australia with transit through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,' an airline spokeswoman said. 'AirAsia takes seriously its obligations with regards to complying with consumer legislations and has operated successfully in Australia since 2007 without any previous claims. We are currently seeking legal advice, as the matter is now subject to legal proceedings.'