Holiday blues turned out okay (Stock image)
In January the pair booked flights, later refunded properly by Easyjet, and a stay in May at the resort’s Flash Hotel. Only when payment, through their Santander bank account debit card, was made did they realise “it was taken by Otel.com, a company we’d never heard of before,” said Carole. Travel restrictions forced the contract to be cancelled by discount travel services operator Otel.com in March.
“We went back and forth with them afterwards,” she explained. “They took their time, then offered a voucher. We refused as we couldn’t be sure when we could travel again. We’ve not heard from them since.”
Their attempts at claiming through a chargeback via their debit card also failed at first because they were told they were over the 120-day time limit.
++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] ++
Carole added: “We are having to send the paperwork by mail which holds up things and it seems we are out of time to apply, but only by two days at most.”
Crusader also drew a blank trying to get a response from Otel.com and did not hear back following our request for help from sister UK-based company Hotelspro Ltd.
Many other Otel customers are complaining online about their losses.
Carole and Fredrick did not have travel insurance cover that started from the time they booked, so that was not an option either.
Making a timely claim has become even more crucial with Covid pressures and Carole and Fredrick’s experience is a typical example of what consumers are up against.
Payment card regulations are set and would be mightily difficult to amend Crusader was told, after we asked if this could be considered, even in the face of the extraordinary demands being created by the pandemic.
Just as well then that after a review Santander has done the right thing by their loyal customers with the £651 “goodwill gesture”.
A Santander spokesman said: “Mr and Mrs Curtis had exhausted all their options in trying to obtain a refund from Otel.com for their reservation. Their hotel booking with the agent was cancelled as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions, and although not eligible for a refund under the chargeback scheme, as a gesture of goodwill, we have refunded the £651.10 which is the full value of their claim.
“We appreciate the efforts the couple made to try and recover the funds from the booking agent and we hope they will be able to put this towards another trip when the travel restrictions are lifted.”
As they cracked open a bottle of champagne, “We can’t believe it’s sorted and many thanks to you,” Carole and Fredrick told Crusader.
Chargeback and Section 75 claims – don’t delay and advice from Visa and Mastercard
Always check refunds and cancellation terms before booking.
Get travel insurance cover starting from time you pay.
At the first hint of problems or suspicion you are being strung along, never delay starting a chargeback (dispute) process with your debit card or Section 75 credit card claim through your card issuer/bank.
Chargeback requests have a 120-day time limit starting from the date of the original expected service. For future dated items, such as holidays, claims must be within 540 days after payment.
1. What should I do if I don’t receive a product or service as expected?
In most cases, consumers and businesses are able to trade with ease but sometimes things go wrong and a product or service can’t be fulfilled. When something goes wrong with a purchase, it’s important that consumers understand their rights and the options available to avoid ending up out of pocket. The first step in situations like this is to contact the seller to ask for a refund or replacement. If you aren’t able to contact the seller, access a refund or are being offered only a partial refund or voucher – then there are options available which may allow you to get your money back. No matter how you pay, under UK laws, consumers have the right to a refund from merchants directly if a product or service hasn’t been delivered. If you’re having no luck with the seller, you should also speak to your bank who may be able to issue a refund.
If you paid with a Visa card, you may be able to get your money back through a process typically referred to as a chargeback (or dispute) and whilst not a legal right, it is a process to help resolve disputes when a consumers does not receive the goods or services they have paid for with their Visa card. Visa has implemented guidelines to help consumers, issuers and merchants quickly resolve disputes, and maintain a fair and high standard of service. Here is a brief summary of these guidelines:
Consumers who wish to dispute a charge or claim their money back, must contact the bank that issued their Visa card. The bank then submits a claim to the retailer’s bank to request the money back.
A dispute or chargeback request must be raised within 120 days from the original transaction date or 120 calendar days from the date of the original expected service, e.g. flight, up to a maximum 540 days from the original transaction date (Please note, card issuers and merchants can choose to extend this time frame under special circumstances, the above are Visa guidelines)
Some banks may have shorter or longer timeframes according to their terms and conditions so it is important to speak to your bank to understand the process.
2. What happens if I don’t get all of my money back/if I only get a partial refund?
If the consumer only receives a partial refund or is not fully covered by another consumer protection scheme such as a bonding authority or insurance, they should contact the bank that issued their Visa card. The bank can then submit a claim to the retailer’s bank to request the money back.
3. If I’m offered the opportunity to postpone or rebook instead of a refund, can my bank still pursue a chargeback claim for me?
Yes. Unless explicitly required by law, consumers are not required to accept any changes to the service they originally purchased.
If they do not wish to accept a postponement or rebooking and the retailer fails to offer a refund, consumers can contact the bank that issued their Visa card to ask them to submit a claim to the retailer’s bank to request the money back.
Where a refund request is made through this route, consumers will be unable to rebook the original purchased service.
4. What do I need to do if the tour operator (e.g. an airline or travel service provider) I made a booking with goes out of business?
Visa is committed to protecting consumers when they pay with Visa. This is why we have an established process to help consumers get their money back when they do not receive the goods or services they have paid for with your Visa card.
The first step for consumers who have not received the goods or services they have paid for is to contact the retailer from whom you made the purchase to understand whether they can get a refund.
If they cannot get a refund, consumers can contact the bank that issued their Visa card. The bank then submits a claim to the retailer’s bank to request the money back.
5. If my flight or hotel booking is cancelled and I receive a voucher refund, and then the retailer that I booked with goes out of business, can my bank make a chargeback claim for the value of the voucher and would there be a time limit for making this claim?
If a tour operator has gone out of business or stopped trading, consumers can contact their bank to submit a refund request to the retailer’s bank within 120 days of whichever occurs first – the tour operator going out of business or the date of the original expected service, e.g. flight.
This right is unaffected even when a consumer has already accepted a voucher from the retailer to cover a service which hasn’t been provided.
1: What is a chargeback?
A: Chargebacks are consumer-initiated purchase disputes – or, in layman’s terms, when a consumer flags a transaction with their bank to contest the validity of a purchase.
2: How can I get a chargeback?
A: Ideally, consumers should contact the merchant if a purchase is suspected to be fraudulent or if a product arrives differently than described.
However, if they are unable to resolve this with the merchant they can contact their card issuer who can evaluate the best course of action.
The card issuer may decide a chargeback is appropriate in cases of goods not arriving at all, goods that are damaged, goods that are different from the description, or where the merchant has ceased trading.
There is a time limit on chargeback claims – typically 120 days from the transaction processing date, or from when you receive the goods/service if it’s being delivered. In the case of future-dated items, such as flights or concert tickets the 120 day time limit begins once you were due to receive the goods or service, but you do need to claim within 540 days of when you paid.
3: Where should a consumer start when it comes to initiating a chargeback during COVID-19?
A: Do your research: Check the merchant website to understand your options, whether it be a refund, credit or voucher. Many businesses are posting updated policies, helpful tips and alternative contact options on their websites to make the process as easy as possible.
Start with the business: With any purchase inquiry as well as to request a refund, be sure to contact the merchant first. They can usually handle this directly.
Be patient: Just like you, there are lots of people whose plans have changed. Remember, these businesses are doing their best under extremely difficult circumstances. These are unprecedented times, so what was immediate previously may now take longer.
Ask questions: When you contact a merchant, ask what their expected timeline is for reimbursement so you can plan accordingly, and add a few extra days just to be safe. And, it’s OK to ask for updates through the process
If things are not resolved with the business, check to see if you have trip insurance or purchase protection plans, for example. The final fallback is to call your bank or credit union that issued your card. If you do, have all the key details ready to help the process – starting with the transaction amount and date. Be ready to share any communication you’ve had with the merchant to try to resolve the issue directly.