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Freedom Air Ads breached Fair Trading Act

Issued 30 October 2000/107

Air NZ subsidiary, Freedom Air International, admits ads breached Fair Trading Act

The Dunedin District Court today fined South Pacific Air Charters Limited, which is part of the Air New Zealand group and trades as Freedom Air International, $4,000 for making false or misleading claims about the prices of its "Christmas airfare sale".

The Commerce Commission had prosecuted Freedom Air.

The advertisements, in the Southland Times and the Otago Daily Times, offered return airfares from Dunedin to Sydney or Brisbane for from $449. A banner in the advertisements offered "A Christmas Sale! Save up to $100 return between 17 December 1999 and 10 January 2000."

Commission Chair John Belgrave said that there were no fares available during that period at $449, let alone any at $100 off, namely $349.

Fine print at the bottom of the advertisements qualified the offer. It stated that the Christmas sale airfares were from $499 return and were available on selected Sydney flights only. It also stated that the $449 fares were available from January 21 to June 24 on most flights.

Mr Belgrave said that that there is a message here for all advertisers: consumers must be able to rely on the overall impression created by advertising. All important terms and conditions must be accurately and clearly explained. "All advertisers should consider their use of small print very carefully," Mr Belgrave said. "If the message in small print is important, then why is it in small print?

"If the style of advertising does not allow that important message to be made clear, then the style should be changed. But if the style cannot be changed and still convey the message, then some hard questions have to be asked about the message.

"How accurately does it describe the goods or services offered? Is it at risk of misleading consumers?

"In this case, Freedom Air's message was not accurate enough, was false or misleading and has led to a conviction, fine and the associated bad publicity."

Media contact: Communications Officer Vincent Cholewa Phone work (04) 498 0920, home (04) 473 3827

Commission media releases can be viewed on its web site www.comcom.govt.nz


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