TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — If COVID-19 canceled your big trip or plans to an event, most airlines and businesses are giving your money back. But the I-Team has learned, you can’t count on it with every company.
With planes grounded across the country, flight battles have some passengers standing their ground to get their money back.
“We’ve had a lot of people that are just frustrated,” says Brett Snyder, owner of the travel site Cranky Flier.
Snyder is a former airline employee who is focusing more on helping customers navigate refund and credit options than booking flights right now.
“There are different policies for different airlines and it can be tough for people to follow,” explains Snyder.
Last week, The United States Department of Transportation announced it was receiving a significant number of complaints from ticketed passengers who felt wronged.
In response, in an enforcement notice, it told all U.S. airlines they must “give prompt refunds” to travelers whose flights were canceled or “significantly delayed.”
However, just this week, a Minnesota police officer filed a class action lawsuit after he says his April flight was canceled and United Airlines is refusing to give his money back.
In the lawsuit, he states the airlines is engaging “In unfair and deceptive conduct… forcing customers into a rebooked flight or travel voucher instead of returning their money…”
“It’s at this time when everybody has a precious need for cash so coupons don’t pay the bills,” says Attorney Nick Coulson.
He just filed a class action lawsuit against StubHub for a customer who bought tickets to a National Hockey League game with StubHub’s “Fan Protect guarantee” which promises your money back.
But, the game did not happen. It was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, Coulson says his client, and thousands of other ticket holders whose events were canceled, are being offered a 120% credit within the next year.
“They tried to sell this theft, this robbery, to their customers because the coupon is for 120% of the purchase price but it’s a coupon that expires in a year… They may never be able to use IT because none us knows what things may look like in the next 12 months… [My client] like everybody else is in a position where he could use the money right now.”
So far during this emergency, the Office of the Texas Attorney General tells the I-Team it has heard from 232 consumers complaining about refunds with businesses statewide.
HOW TO GET A REFUND
1. If you’ve been refused a refund, our experts say first try talking directly to the business. Clearly explain your problem to a salesperson or manager.
2. If that doesn’t work, go up the chain until you find someone with the power to help. This may mean a corporate headquarters
3. You can also file a complaint with the following agencies:
4. If a business moves or closes, contact the Texas Secretary of State to find the registered agent and address of the owner.
Provide as many of these details, and cite regulations you believe were violated, in your complaints.
5. And remember, you can also contact your bank to dispute a charge.
6. Finally, file a complaint with the Department of Transportation if you’re fighting a U.S. airline over refund issues.
STATEMENT FROM UNITED AIRLINES:
“Since the start of the COVID-19 health event we have implemented new policies to give our customers flexibility during these extraordinary times by allowing them to change their travel plans without a fee. Passengers can automatically rebook eligible trips to an alternative flight for no fee or request an electronic travel certificate, so they can choose a flight in the future. Eligible travelers on domestic flights – and customers with international tickets – can request a refund on United.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19. We are proud of the role our company and our employees play during this crisis and continue to operate to nearly every domestic destination as well as six international markets across the globe including our partner hubs.”
STATEMENT FROM STUBHUB:
“StubHub is a global marketplace and our policies vary by region, in line with local guidance. In the last few weeks, 40,000+ events have been cancelled, postponed or rescheduled – 23,000 in the US and Canada alone. Given the unprecedented impact the coronavirus has had on the live events industry, we have adapted our policies in the US and Canada while continuing to try to go above and beyond for our customers.
As a marketplace, we act as an intermediary for buyers and sellers. In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller. With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.
When the volume of cancellations accelerated a few weeks ago, we were the first in our industry to offer a coupon worth 120% of the ticket value. This will now be our default option in Canada and in the US. Outside of the US and Canada, fans are defaulted to a refund. Due to the exceptional circumstances the music and sport industries are currently facing, some refunds may take a little longer than normal to process. We greatly appreciate our community’s patience and understanding during this extraordinary time.”
STATEMENT FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION:
“The obligation to provide refunds when scheduled flights are cancelled or significantly delayed applies to U.S. and foreign carriers operating at least one aircraft having a seating capacity of 30 or more seats to, within, or from the United States. The Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, a unit within the Office of the General Counsel, will monitor airlines’ refund policies and practices and take enforcement action as necessary. Enforcement action may include, for example, seeking corrective actions through warning letters or issuing consent orders (which may include fines). Consumers may file a complaint with the Department here.“