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Wednesday, 19 September 2001
Page: 30997

Mrs MOYLAN (3:12 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation. Would the minister inform the House of what action can be taken by consumers who have bought Ansett airline tickets with their credit cards?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Financial Services and Regulation) —I thank the member for Pearce, who is very concerned about the welfare of consumers in her electorate, as are a number of other members who, in all cases, have put politics aside to work out the best way to help consumers who may have purchased Ansett airline tickets with their credit cards. Obviously, consumers who have purchased tickets with their credit cards and have not been able to get a flight are legally protected. I have been in contact with the banking Ombudsman, Mr Colin Neave, and I have spoken with the chief executives of the National Australia Bank, Westpac, ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank. All the parties concerned have undertaken to be as helpful as they legally can to those affected by the collapse of Ansett. In short, consumers are entitled to a full refund after one of the following events has occurred: firstly, the time of the pre-paid flight has passed and Ansett has failed to deliver the service; or, secondly, the administrator of Ansett admits that Ansett cannot legally deliver a flight and therefore it will not be able to perform its end of the contract. Under those circumstances, consumers will receive a charge-back—that is, a full refund—to their credit card for the purchase price of their ticket.

The difficulty for consumers who are expecting a full refund at the moment and have forward bookings for flights is that, in legal terms, Ansett is still alive. That means there is still a legal possibility that anyone who has bought an airline ticket for a future flight may still receive the service from Ansett. This creates certain obligations. Consumers and their banks have an obligation to pay for something they have already purchased and, in return, Ansett has an obligation to deliver the flight. However, when and if Ansett goes into liquidation and the liquidator is unwilling to provide a refund, the situation changes, and the banks have to give full credit to consumers who have purchased airline tickets with their credit cards.

As the situation now stands, if Ansett customers have bought airline tickets with a credit card and the travel date has passed and they did not receive a flight from Ansett, they should contact their bank or their credit card provider and make sure that they are being refunded in full. Consumers obviously must be aware of the terms and conditions of their credit cards. But, if consumers have any concerns about the use of their credit card in the purchase of Ansett airline tickets, they should contact either their credit card provider or the banking industry Ombudsman, who has set up a hotline—and that is 1800 337444. In the meantime, the government will work with the banks and, obviously, with the banking Ombudsman to ensure that anyone who has purchased an Ansett airline ticket, has not received a flight and has used their credit card is appropriately protected.