Qantas is offering customers a refund for flights cancelled or suspended due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, as the Australian government orders competition watchdog to monitor anti-competitive behaviour of airlines, reports ABC News.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the agency’s COVID-19 Taskforce raised concerns with Qantas after receiving hundreds of complaints from passengers whose flights were suspended or cancelled due to travel restrictions, but who were given credits by Qantas instead of the refunds they were entitled to.
The move comes as the Federal Government instructs the ACCC to keep watch over airlines including attempts to swamp airline routes, artificially push down prices or lock-in exclusive deals with airports and suppliers.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government had directed the consumer watchdog to monitor domestic air passenger services for three years.
“ACCC monitoring will assist in protecting competition in the domestic passenger airline market, for the benefit of all Australian airline travellers,” Frydenberg said.
The direction is being issued under section 95ZE of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
The direction would allow the watchdog to obtain information, and provide another avenue for Australians wanting to raise concerns about anti-competitive conduct in the domestic air passenger sector.
“[It] will require the ACCC to monitor prices, costs and profits in the domestic air passenger sector,” Frydenberg said.
The ACCC will release quarterly reports about the state of play.
Frydenberg said a key area that would be under watch was the level of capacity the airlines were putting on each route and whether this was occurring in a way that may damage competition.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said a strong aviation industry was vital for Australian consumers and the economy.
The ACCC would be looking out for “any early signs of damage to competition in the domestic airline industry which could harm the long-term interests of consumers”.
“For example, the monitoring regime will inform the ACCC and the government about the rate at which each airline is increasing capacity on each route,” Sims said.
“This will provide insight into whether an airline could be adding additional flights to a route in an attempt to damage a competitor or drive them off the route.”
He said the proper competition provided consumer choice and would help keep prices down over the long term.
The ACCC is also currently investigating whether the acquisition of a 19.9 per cent ownership stake in Alliance Airlines by Qantas represents a breach of competition law. (Source: ABC News)