Flight Centre surprised by ACCC appeal action.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced this afternoon that it will seek special leave of the High Court to appeal the decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia handed down in favour of Flight Centre at the end of last month.
In the ruling the court found that the primary judge in the initial case had erred in finding that Flight Centre was competing with airlines in a market for distribution and booking services, after allegations by the ACCC that the agency group had attempted to reduce competition by influencing prices carriers charged to direct customers.
The appeal ruling was unanimous, with the ACCC ordered to pay Flight Centre’s costs for both the initial case and the appeal, while an $11 million fine levied was also to be refunded, with interest.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the Commission had brought the proceedings because it was concerned that Flight Centre’s actions were likely to have meant that “consumers would not have seen the benefit of competition through lower ticket prices offered online by the airlines concerned”.
He said the case also raises important issues for the application of competition laws in Australia in the future, “as online offers are increasingly being made directly to consumers by both agents and their principals”.
Flight Centre md Graham Turner said the company was disappointed that the ACCC was continuing to pursue the case, despite the “clear and unanimous judgement” handed down last month.
“We will, of course, oppose the action and continue to vigorously defend our position,” he said.
More information in Monday’s issue of Travel Daily.