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Your Last Resorts In A Travel Dispute

by Jason Steele

Your complaint was denied, your letters to the CEO have gone unanswered.   You know you are right, but the company has decided not to do anything and hope that you will just go away.

Don’t Go Away

Your next option is to request a chargeback from your credit card company.  Obviously, this is only possible if you charged the amount in dispute to your credit card.    This is a fairly good option for most disputes.  It is so good that you are well served by merely threatening a chargeback.   Companies have much to fear from a chargeback as each one is held against them when they negotiate their merchant fees.   An airline might accept billions of dollars a year by credit card, and an increase in their merchant fees of a thousandth of a percent can be very costly.

When you file a chargeback  documentation is important, and you really only get one shot to get it right.   Keep your story simple and concise, omitting anything not directly relevant to your dispute.   Your credit card company will try to determine whether you have been charged for goods and services you did not receive.    Ultimately, it can always go either way, but at least it is free.

Don’t Get Mad, Take Them To Court

Sometimes chargebacks are denied for one reason or another.  Other times, a dispute doesn’t fit into the boundaries of a chargeback, but it is still a fair claim.    In this case, your last resort is to file a case in small claims court.   This is a surprisingly easy process that typically requires a single form be filled out, and a minimal filing fee be paid, typically about $20.  Like the threatening a chargeback, threatening to file a case in small claims court might be enough to get the results you seek.   You may even send a copy of the paperwork to the company with a request to respond in two weeks, notifying them that you will file the case if you do not reach a settlement in that time.

The immediate result is that you will stop getting form letters from the customer relations department, as your situation will now be handled by their legal department.      A staff attorney, or one at a law firm on retainer will look at the case and attempt to evaluate what the outcome would be if the case went to court.   If the law is clearly on your side, and the attorney understands it, hopefully you will be offered a settlement.   That is what British Airways chose to do when a blogger filed a case in small claims court after the airline reneged on a sale fare it had offered.

Another possibility is that the company will simply fail to show up at the trial.   This is certainly more likely if you live far from the headquarters of the company, as they might decide it is just not worth their effort to send a lawyer out to your jurisdiction.     It is also true that large companies loose and misplace documents all the time, otherwise we probably would not have such a hard time dealing with them.  Normally, the customer is the victim when a company looses a document, but in this instance it guarantees victory.   When the other party doesn’t show up in court, for any reason, a default judgment is issued so long as you have the slightest proof to back up your claim.

The final possibility is that the company appears in court to defend itself.    While the workings of small claims court are beyond the scope of a travel blogger, my experience is that consumers tend to be treated fairly well when they can prove a company was at fault.   For example, in this instance, Delta Airlines lost a small claims case and was force to pay a passenger $4,140 after it lost their luggage.

The point is that you do not have to accept a company’s refusal to compensate you for it’s mistakes.   Between chargebacks and small claims court, we have more than one opportunity to receive justice.

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One Response to “Your Last Resorts In A Travel Dispute”

  1. Mike Says:

    There is a lot of validity in your “take them to court” statement. I worked as an executive in customer service for 14 years and we lost almost every case that was taken to the magistrate’s office….even the ones where the company didn’t do anything wrong. It got so bad that when we got a summons to go to court we pretty much just gave the customer whatever they wanted. It was always cheaper that way.

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