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Old 04.01.2010, 18:49
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Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

Hi All,

I'm clutching at straws here, any constructive suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for the lengthy post...

I have been battling with an online travel company for some weeks now. Without providing any names (just yet) here is the short run down:

1. I have made an online reservation with "International Online Travel X" for a hotel stay in the UK, 3 nights at the "UK Hotel Y" in the value of GBP 895.00, two weeks in advance of the planned travel date

2. One week before the planned travel date I found a better deal with the same hotel, "UK Hotel Y", and made a direct booking with them for the same dates.

3. At the same time, one week before the travel and within the officially communicated cancellation period, I cancelled the reservation with "International Online Travel X" using their online cancellation tool (booking reference # and PIN required). I received a cancellation confirmation on the screen, but no email. At that time I was not concerned, as I had several bookings and cancellations in the past with the same company and never had any issues. On the other hand, sometime emails get lost (spam filters)or end up in a junk folder. So, I wasn't worried...but you probably guessed where I'm heading...

4. We completed our travel, including our stay at "UK Hotel Y". Had a great time. One week after our return I discovered that my credit card was charged twice by the hotel. Once for the actual stay, and once for the original booking (GBP 895.00).

5. Upon contacting "UK Hotel Y" I was told that they never received a cancellation note from "International Online Travel X", therefore they charged us fully with a "No Show". This is despite that the hotel had clear records that we have stayed at their premises (same dates, same people). "UK Hotel Y" requested a confirmation from "International Online Travel X" that the cancellation was made by the customer (me) before proceeding with any refunds.

6. Upon contacting "International Online Travel X" and quoting the booking reference, they told me that the reservation was never cancelled. They asked for the confirmation email, which I was unable to produce. I was puzzled about this and started to dig around in my web browser. Low and behold, I found some entries in my web browser's history which shows that I entered the cancellation page and I clicked on "Cancel" one week before the travel date. I sent this information to "International Online Travel X", with screen shots, reference numbers, session IDs and explanations. They came back to me that their IT did not find any entries. As a matter of fact, I haven't even logged onto their web site, which is clearly untrue.

Now I am stuck as "UK Hotel Y" does not provide a cancellation refund without "International Online Travel X" confirming that I did cancel, and "International Online Travel X" does not admit that they had some technical problems and the cancellation did not complete properly.

As the amount is not small I am really reluctant to let this go. It already had an impact on our Christmas budget and I'm really angry just to let them get away with it.

Has anyone had some similar experience? What legal options do I have?

Any constructive input would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
b
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Old 04.01.2010, 20:02
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

If it was all done online using your credit card, reject the transaction with your credit card provider - it will cause a massive headache with the travel company and the hotel (they will have to clearly demonstrate that their document trail is watertight)...

In the meantime, print off the 'evidence' you have and send by registered post and clearly state that you did cancel the trip and that their website obviously malfunctioned.

Secondly, print off a different letter to the hotel, directly stating that this was a double booking, you believed that you had cancelled the first booking, and that clearly you stayed in the hotel, and could not possibly have had two concurrent bookings.

Although it's easy to see how you are clearly 'at fault' - the hotel's systems should have cross-matched the two bookings and at least have queried it - for all you know, you actually stayed on your 'first' booking and your 'second' one was the one that was recorded as a 'no show'.

This strategy will cause the most headache for all parties involved. I don't think your chances are very good of getting your money back, but my understanding is that you have 3 months from the transaction date to query the payment and reclaim the funds,

HOWEVER,

before you do this, I would double-check what transactions were actually made on your card, by whom, and on what dates...because that might change how you approach the issue ...
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Old 04.01.2010, 22:48
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

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HOWEVER,

before you do this, I would double-check what transactions were actually made on your card, by whom, and on what dates...because that might change how you approach the issue ...
Swisspea! Thank you so much for your suggestions! I will definitely start the process with my credit card company. Finally I can get some use out of my platinum membership

As for your last comment, what do you mean by changed approaches?

Cheers,
b
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Old 05.01.2010, 09:20
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

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Swisspea! Thank you so much for your suggestions! I will definitely start the process with my credit card company. Finally I can get some use out of my platinum membership

As for your last comment, what do you mean by changed approaches?

Cheers,
b
It doesn't really matter whether your card is Green or Platinum, the rules for credit card companies are the same, it's client advantages that change.

You have legal contract with the CC company, they have one with the Hotel. Prove to the CC company you cancelled and they will have to refund the monies to you and then the CC company sorts it out with the travel company or hotel.
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Old 05.01.2010, 09:43
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

As others have pointed out, the best course of action is to dispute the charges on your credit card. Note that the charge you should dispute is with 'International Online Travel X', as they are at fault. The hotel could refund your money as a good-will gesture, but they are under no obligation to (and a dispute against them probably won't be upheld by the card issuer.)

The card issuer may ask for further documentation, and they will DEFINITELY want evidence that you tried to resolve this directly with the merchant before raising a dispute. But once they raise the dispute, they are usually very successful at helping reach the 'right' resolution.

If you have a cancellation number issued by 'International Online Travel X', your case is strong. If you can provide a print-out to justify this, then you should be free-and-clear as soon as you dispute the charges with your card issuer.

NB: I'm assuming you used a credit card, not a debit card -- your consumer protections are very different if you used a debit card.

Hope this helps, good luck getting your issue resolved.
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Old 05.01.2010, 17:32
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

Thank you all for the constructive feedback. I will definitely go ahead with the charge dispute. The transaction was charged to American Express, which is really a debit card, but so far they provided me with some great customer service.

I will now collect all the evidence, browser logs, email corresponences etc. and try to create a solid case. I think I still have a backup of that mac i made the booking on. I might even be able to get the cache file.

Once more, thank you all for your help. I'll let you know about the outcome!

Ciao,
b
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Old 04.01.2010, 23:08
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

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3. At the same time, one week before the travel and within the officially communicated cancellation period, I cancelled the reservation with "International Online Travel X" using their online cancellation tool (booking reference # and PIN required). I received a cancellation confirmation on the screen, but no email.
Check your browser cache, if you're (really) lucky the cancellation confirmation might still be there.
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Old 04.01.2010, 23:38
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

I had a similar issue with ebookers site right before Christmas? I made a booking and sent it off but didn't get a confirmation screen so I got suspisious. When no email came I called their hotline and they confirmed that the booking had not been done in their system.

So if it is ebookers it could very well be that they have an issue with their web page.
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Old 05.01.2010, 08:29
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Re: Advice Needed: legal options against an online business

Get all the evidence as quickly as you can, and then plan your course of action.

my comment about varying your approach will depend on the dates that transactions were made.

How will you feel if you find out your credit card was actually debited *after* you advised them that your booking was cancelled - it wouldn't be the first time this has happened - in companies where the system is pretty crap to start with.
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