Last week the ACCC told Plane Talking it didn’t monitor airline charges and would only intervene in the pricing of air fares if it believed a carrier was engaging in deceptive conduct.

The ACCC clearly operates under a deceptive definition of ‘deceptive’ and perhaps should consider ordering itself to take out newspaper advertisments acknowledging the problem and setting a self imposed fine.

For the past 72 hours the oil price benchmark has traded in the USD 30s range. It was $USD 33.35 at one stage this morning. Most of the US is buried under heavy snow drifts from coast to coast and OPEC has cut oil production in an effort to boost prices, yet fuel prices remain stuck in a welcome and persistent downward trend that has been apparent for nearly two months.

There were no fuel surcharges on air fares in Australia until 2004, when the benchmark price went above $US 43 at roughly equivalent exchange rates.

How deceptive is a surcharge for something that is no longer as expensive as it was when it was introduced? Would it be more acceptable if the fuel surcharge was renamed? How about a greed surcharge, or a revenue enhancement surcharge, or a ‘stuff you’ surcharge?

The ‘stuff you’ element of this is all the more apparent in recent Qantas disclosures that because of the price protection mechanisms built into its fuel hedges it is participating in the benefits of lower fuel costs even when the market price is below the average hedge price.

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