When is “free” misleading?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accepted court enforceable undertakings from American Express regarding the advertising of its International Airline Program (IAP) for Platinum Cardmembers.

American Express’s IAP was advertised by American Express as entitling Platinum Cardmembers to purchase a specially negotiated ticket for first or business class air travel on a participating airline and receive a free, complimentary or bonus companion ticket entitling a second person to accompany the cardmember on that trip.

The ACCC received complaints from cardmembers who found that they were able to purchase comparable air travel tickets in the open market at a price that suggested that the companion ticket offer was not free.

ACCC said the offer could not in all cases be said to be truly free, bonus or complimentary.

In response to the ACCC’s concerns and complaints by some Platinum Cardmembers, American Express will write to those who may have been misled and offer:

  • a refund of up to one year’s Platinum Card membership fee
  • ; or

  • an amount of 10 per cent of the cost of the first fare purchased under the IAP, depending upon individual circumstances
  • .

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