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Flight Centre fined for trying to fix fares

ABC
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The Federal Court has fined Flight Centre for trying to fix prices for international flights with three airlines.

The travel agency has been ordered to pay $11 million for trying to prevent Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Malaysia Airlines from offering cheaper flights than its own airfares between 2005 and 2009.

Flight Centre says it complies with the law and changed its business practices after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched an investigation into the price fixing attempts in 2009.

In December, the Federal Court found Flight Centre had made the price fixing attempts, and the travel agency has already appealed against that judgement.

It says it is now considering also challenging the penalty.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says the penalty would have been higher if Flight Centre had successfully convinced the airlines to fix their prices.

“Flight Centre was found to have made the attempt, the airlines didn’t agree so because it was an attempt it therefore gets a lower penalty than otherwise and so we think the penalty is a reasonable one,” he said.

Mr Sims defended the amount of time it took to mount the case and says it sets an important example.

“These processes do take time,” he said.

“I don’t think that matters because the key point is this helps define the law, it helps send signals to companies about what they can and can’t do and that’s why it’s hugely important.”