The Sweetest Thing

Everyone loves a refund. It’s especially great during the those times when you make a poor decision and there is ultimately no monetary cost to you. Unfortunately, there will always be cases when you feel like you are entitled to a refund, only for the seller to say no. Often they are well within their rights to refuse you a refund which is why there is nothing sweeter than getting a refund after being told no.

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I’ve never studied law, but recently I used my limited knowledge of my rights as a consumer to obtain a refund in the most satisfying way possible which I thought was worth sharing. As such I will digressing from my travel arc of posts to bring you the details of my recent experience. It goes a little something like this.

Against my better judgement, I booked a flight on a budget airline for Christmas day. Essentially, it was the cheapest ticket on the day and I justified this decision because I hadn’t heard some bad press in a while. Anyway everything was good until recently when I received an email saying my flight had been rescheduled by almost 4 hours.

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Now despite this setback, I could have followed a similar path to a good friend of mine, who recently spilt BBQ sauce all over his brand new white t-shirt at dinner and when offered bi-carb and/or a fresh shirt, he responded ‘No thanks. I’ve learnt to live with my mistakes and just keep going.’ I thoroughly believe in the importance of making and learning from your mistakes and I do tip my hat to my mate’s unabashed enthusiasm to his stained shirt.

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However this change in flight time was going to make me miss Christmas dinner, so naturally I wanted to know what my options were. Things got off to a promising start when I checked the terms and conditions on the company website. Clearly stated in the terms and conditions were the following two clauses:

1. In the event of such changes to the schedule (including cancellations) due to circumstances beyond our control, we will arrange to carry you at the earliest opportunity on another of our scheduled services to the same destination on which space is available without additional charge. If the alternative service is not reasonably acceptable to you, we will retain the value of your fare in a credit account for your future travel provided you re-book within 6 (six) months. 

2. In the event of such changes to the schedule (including cancellations) due to circumstances within our control, the Passenger may elect to receive a refund in accordance with these Conditions.

Ideally I wanted a refund, but seeing as my flight was on Christmas day and the change in flight would make me miss Christmas dinner, I thought that at the very least I would be able to get a credit for my flights due to the change being ‘not reasonably acceptable.’ As such, I tailored my request for a refund but left it open to receiving a credit.

Now this doesn’t seem all that interesting but what happened next, is what makes this story so satisfying.

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I quickly received a response apologising for the reschedule and giving reasons for why this was out of the airline’s control. To me, these seemed very weak such that I think if I became a real pain in the ass, they may have granted my request for a refund. Fortunately, I think I kept my integrity intact due to the next section of their response.

This section detailed that not only was I ineligible for a refund or credit, I would have to pay a fee if I wished to change my flight. The reason I was given was the following clause (among a couple of others):

If your flight is rescheduled before the date of travel, and departs more than 4 (four) hours before or after the original departure time, then you will be entitled to a travel credit or full refund of the unused part of your reservation if the alternative flight/s offered are not acceptable to you and you do not wish to travel.

i.e. Due to my flight reschedule being only 3 hours and 50 minutes (less than 4 hours), I was not granted a refund or flight credit.

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I had to read this a few times to be sure I was reading this correctly because the airline had just quoted clauses that I could not find in their terms and conditions. Once I was sure they were not included, I realised I now had the upper-hand. Fortunately, my very limited knowledge of the law extended to my basic rights as a consumer. I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to reprint the correspondence with the airline, so I’ve provided an annotated version. It goes something like this:

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Could you please confirm which revision of the terms and conditions you are referring to, date upon which they came into effect, and where these may be accessed from as these are not the terms and conditions which I agreed to. At the time of purchase I agreed to the terms and conditions accessible on your website, terms which are still accessible today (reference: XXX, accessed 1 November 2015).

You correctly reserve the right to update your terms and conditions at your discretion. However, reasonable efforts need to have been made to ensure that any changes are accessible in order to reduce the potential of misleading consumers. This has not occurred as all attempts to review your terms and conditions still direct me to the aforementioned website link (terms which do not reflect the conditions presented by you).

If the terms and conditions have indeed been updated, then at the time of the booking I could not reasonably make an informed decision as these significant changes to the terms and conditions were not reasonably accessible. Whether intentional or not this occurrence has mislead me to accept unfair terms and conditions, on the grounds that I would not have accepted them, had they been reasonably accessible. As I have mentioned before, my decision to accept the terms and conditions were based on the available conditions at the time and I would NOT have agreed to these ‘new’ conditions had they been made reasonably accessible (side bar – it’s probably unnecessary for me to say this three different ways but I really wanted to make my point).

Under my rights as a consumer there has been a major failure with this service as I would not have engaged the service if I had known the nature and extent of the problem (i.e. The terms and conditions should a flight be rescheduled by less than 4 hours). I therefore insist that I be given a refund due to the failure to reasonably disclose up to date conditions of carriage.

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I’m pleased to say that two weeks later I received a full refund into my bank account. Words really can’t express how satisfied I am with myself. Which is why I think it’s fitting to add this hyperlink (Cool guys don’t look at explosions).

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If something similar has happened to you, I’d be happy to share my experience in greater detail. Until then, hope this post encourages you to fully explore and understand your rights as a consumer.

#Hanbaobao

 

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