Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Help Me Howard: Plane Tickets
Odds are, you are buying more and more things online. Many people are. But when you click to buy, is that deal a contract? This is why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Michael Thompson and his family like to travel, and not just in a car.
Michael Thompson: "We like to go back to Argentina, where my wife is from, and we also like to go to Colombia, where I am from."
A month ago, Michael was online when he noticed great airfares for the very next day, so...
Michael Thompson: "I purchased two tickets online to Buenos Aires for my wife and daughter. They were going to go for two weeks."
Michael paid for the tickets with his credit card and finalized the online purchase.
Michael Thompson: "I received a confirmation, a record locator and a receipt indicating that the transaction was successful."
The next day, Michael took his wife and daughter to the airport and was told that great deal he got online from the airline did not happen.
Michael Thompson: "I was informed that the tickets were canceled, that there was a processing error with the transaction."
The tickets were bought through the airline's own web page. They blamed Michael's credit card company, so he called them.
Michael Thompson: "And they mentioned to me that there was absolutely nothing wrong on our end, that the transaction went through."
Michael showed the airline the receipt from their web page, but the airline didn't budge.
Michael Thompson: "This is the first time I ever heard this happening."
Instead, Michael had to buy two more tickets for his wife and daughter, of course costing more: $160 more.
Michael Thompson: "And it's not so much the $160. I mean, albeit, $160 is no chump change, so I just want them to know that you can't do business this way. You need to honor your transactions."
Well Howard, can a company sell a product on their own web page, give you a receipt, then cancel the deal by claiming your credit card company messed up?
Howard Finkelstein: "When you make a purchase online, the law calls it a click wrap agreement. That means you agree to all of the terms on the screen. Also, on the airline's web site, there is a clause that says the contract is not final until the credit card company pays the airline. So if they don't get paid, they can cancel the purchase."
When we spoke to the airline, they told us the tickets were approved by the credit card company the day Michael bought them. That's why he got a receipt. But later that day, the purchase was rejected.
A spokesperson told us, we normally notify the customer by e-mail that they were turned down. They did not in this case. They apologized to Michael and agreed to refund the $160 extra that he paid for the tickets.
Howard Finkelstein: "A lot of web sites don't have the clause that says the contract isn't final until the payment is received, and in those cases, the contract is final when you click. To protect yourself, read all those terms on the web page, just like you should if it is a written contract, because it is your contract."
We helped Michael get this travel headache resolved. Too bad we can't eliminate all the other airline nuisances he faces.
Michael Thompson: "Delays, people actually passing out on the plane, emergency landings, that sort of thing, but for the most part, traveling for pleasure has been satisfactory."
Patrick Fraser: "Now if you buy something online, that fine print that Howard is talking about can go on forever. And remember, it was written by the companies. Guess who it protects: not you, the companies. So if it's a big purchase, you might want to read those terms."
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