Af­ter a Price­line car can­cel­la­tion, don’t I de­serve a re­fund?

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Arts & Culture - BY CHRISTO­PHER EL­LIOTT

Q: I need your help with a Price­line car can­cel­la­tion. Ear­lier this year, I logged on to Au­ to find a rental car. I have used Au­toSlash sev­eral times in the past.

When Au­toSlash ac­cepts your reser­va­tion, the site tries to find a bet­ter rate. Then it can­cels your first reser­va­tion and books the less ex­pen­sive one.

I re­ceived my first reser­va­tion through Price­line. I as­sumed that Au­toSlash had an agree­ment with Price­line, where the process would be the same – make a reser­va­tion, then can­cel. So I thought I had signed up with Au­toSlash for a tem­po­rary con­tract through Price­line.

But I hadn’t. When I called Price­line and asked to can­cel the reser­va­tion, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­fused. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive said my reser­va­tion was “non­can­cellable and non­re­fund­able.” I then ex­changed sev­eral emails with Au­toSlash. The com­pany agreed that it was not its usual pro­ce­dure, but that Price­line was too big of a com­pany for it to get any con­ces­sion.

Get­ting des­per­ate, I filed a dis­pute with my credit card com­pany. They re­funded the charge and put it into a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion cat­e­gory, which meant that Price­line could re­spond neg­a­tively and get the charge re­in­stated up to six weeks af­ter the rental was sup­posed to hap­pen. I was then re­signed to ac­cept­ing the con­tract. But when I called Price­line, I learned that it had can­celed my reser­va­tion.

Now the car-rental com­pany has sent me a let­ter say­ing that I owe it $314, even though it pro­vided no ser­vice. Can you help?

A: You should have re­ceived some­thing for your $314. But this Price­line car-can­cel­la­tion case – and res­o­lu­tion – is full of in­ter­est­ing twists and turns. Your un­der­stand­ing of Au­toSlash is cor­rect. Ba­si­cally, you re­serve a car, and the site tries to do bet­ter.

With Price­line’s Au­toSlash rates, it works a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. The site of­fers an “ex­press deals” rate that may be more re­stric­tive than those of­fered by car rental com­pa­nies:­ posts/price­line-end­sname-your-own-pricerental-cars-fo­cuses-on­ex­press-deals. In other words, you might be stuck with that price – and un­able to can­cel.

A look at your Price­line reser­va­tion shows that it was non­re­fund­able, non­trans­fer­able and non­change­able, even if you didn’t use the car.

From your per­spec­tive, Au­toSlash didn’t do what you ex­pected it to be­cause of its Price­line rates. You ini­ti­ated a credit card dis­pute. In re­sponse, Price­line can­celed your reser­va­tion but fought the dis­pute.

You should have been able to call Price­line and let it know that you were giv­ing up and would take the car, but that’s not how it works. Once a credit card dis­pute starts, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to stop it. So Price­line tried to keep your money and give you noth­ing in re­turn.

Worse, you say you didn’t see the terms of your pur­chase un­til af­ter you tried to can­cel. I wasn’t there when you made the reser­va­tion, but it sounds as if there was a lot of un­nec­es­sary con­fu­sion about your rental.

I list the Price­line ex­ec­u­tive con­tacts on my con­sumer-ad­vo­cacy site. You con­tacted Au­toSlash for help, but by the time I ar­rived on the scene, ev­ery­one was al­ready too con­fused. (I in­clude my­self in this group. Af­ter re­view­ing this case the first time, I wasn’t sure if I could help. But you fur­nished my ad­vo­cacy team with de­tails that made it pos­si­ble for me to ad­vo­cate for you.)

I con­tacted Price­line on your be­half, and it re­funded your $314.

Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine. Read more at el­, or email [email protected]­

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