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suing Expedia in small claims court

Discussion in 'Small Claims & Municipal Court' started by Earl, Dec 19, 2004.

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  1. Earl

    Earl Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I was wondering two things:
    (1) do I have a case
    (2) do I have to file this in King County, WA or may I file in Madison, WI?

    Brief overview:
    For the full details, please read the timeline below. Basically, I bought a plane ticket from expedia and ended up canceling the flight. When I called them to ask what to do, they originally (and correctly) told me I was due a refund but then later told me that I would only get a credit (inferior because it expires and only was good for travel on Air France.) They received the tickets on 7 July. On the 11th of July I asked them some minor questions about the credit and they replied with a generic "you may call us to get your questions answered" email.

    On the 13th of December I called to use my credit and was told I didn't have one and would get a refund, but not for 30-60 days. Later calls have turned that into 90 to 130 days. The problem is I was relying on that credit to purchase tickets to Europe to meet friends in early January for two weeks. The time of this trip is important because I would have a free place to stay and a kitchen to cook in -- I was supposed to stay with my best friend and his fiance in Cologne and the fiance's family in Zurich; the trip cannot be taken later because the lack of somewhere free to stay and cook significantly raises the price. I am a college student and unfortunately don't have the spare money to purchase the ticket now without this credit; further, even if I borrowed the money, I am afraid that Expedia / Air France would change their minds and I would not only lose the credit but I would further owe my CC a bunch of money with no way to pay it back.

    Expedia is refusing to do anything that is (in my opinion) reasonable -- and if they wanted they could refund the money via my CC and I would have it in less than 12 hours.The key here, really, is that had they taken care of this properly in July I would have had this refund by November, latest, and they are refusing to take any responsibility for their many mistakes. I want to take them to small claims court. Unfortunately, their user agreement has this nasty gem in it, designed to prevent people from being able to use the small claims court -- it seems that I would have to not only appear for the hearing but file in person as well! That's two trips to Seattle.


    Does this work and is it enforceable? If so, isn't this a pretty amazing power for courts to grant to corporations? It's a very effective way for corporations to prevent virtually all claims against them.

    Below is a detailed timeline and the texts of relevant emails.

    Thanks for any help and advice you give.



    Wed 19 May I purchased a ticket from Expedia for travel from Moscow to Bangkok on 17 July 04.
    Expedia.com itinerary number: ************
    Expedia.com booking ID: *******(1)

    On 3 July I cancelled the flight by called Expedia. I called to ask them what to do; they originally claimed that I would receive a refund but later claimed that I would only get a credit (good only for 1 year and for travel via Air France) and that I had to return the tickets to Expedia.

    On 7 July Expedia confirmed receipt of the paper tickets for this flight.

    On 11 July I wrote Expedia an (attached) email asking for information about the credit that I presumed I had; I basically asked how long the credit was good for and if I could use it for a traveling companion or just me. The gist of their response is, "You may contact us at blah blah blah and a customer service agent will be happy to assist you." Notable is the lack of any mention of a refund for which I needed to call and confirm something-or-other or any order to call. I did not call because these were relatively unimportant questions and I was in Moscow, making it difficult and expensive to call Expedia.

    On 13 December I called to use my credit to purchase airline tickets. The CSR initially told me that I didn't have a credit. After 40 minutes on hold, he told me that I was supposed to have received a refund, not a credit. He said that his proposed solution was that Expedia would mail me tickets for the flight back in July and I would present them to an Air France service desk to get a refund. I said this was not acceptable -- the nearest Air France agent is in Chicago and I live in Madison. That's a minimum six hour round trip. Another 40 minutes and he told me that Expedia would handle the refund in 30-60 days. I asked to be given a credit instead and was told no. I asked for a direct to my credit card refund and was refused.

    On 14 December I contacted Christopher Elliot, the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler ( http://www.ticked.com/chriscrossings/index.htm ). He emailed a contact at Expedia and was told that I actually did have a credit and had refused to use it! This was news to me. This contact further claimed that I was contacted on 11 July (the email referenced above) and told I should contact Expedia to authorize a refund. This appears nowhere in the email, attached below.

    On 16 December I spent another hour on the phone with a customer service representative and got nowhere. I finally asked to speak to a supervisor; this request was denied and I was told to call back later. I was also told that now the refund would take 90-130 days.

    As I see it, Expedia made 6 mistakes:
    (1) when I originally called to cancel the flight, I was originally told I was due a refund (which is correct) but that later changed to a credit

    (2) Expedia told me to return the tickets to them instead of to directly to Air France, where they should have been sent.

    (3) When Expedia received this ticket and confirmed receipt via email, they failed to notify me that I was due a refund and not a credit

    (4) When I emailed Expedia and they responded on 11 July (email attached below) regarding minor details of the credit, they didn't take the opportunity to inform me of their mistake

    (5) When I called Expedia in December to use my credit, they took no responsibility for their actions and were absolutely unwilling to do anything reasonable to make amends for their mistake

    (6) After contacting Christopher Eliot, his Expedia contact lied, claiming that during the original December phone call I was offered a credit but I refused it in favor of a refund

    Email #1

    email from Christ Elliot
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2004
  2. NYClex

    NYClex New Member

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    What is important here is to check what your contract says. It could very well be that expedia is not the company you have to deal with but the airline. Expedia might only be the agent for the airline, so that if you want to sue for a refund you would have to sue the airline directly.

    It all depends on your contract terms which you should have had when you bought the ticket, they should also tell you if you are entitled to a refund or just a credit or nothing.

    And yes, a jurisdiction clause is enforceable as long as you were aware of it when you signed/completed the contract. Probably before you completed the booking you had to click on something like "I have read and agree to all the provisions and terms and so on". That would mean you accepted the jurisdiction clause, too.

    Travel law can be pretty complicated. You might want to contact your consumer affairs department in your city or your state attorney general's office for more information and the laws in your state.
  3. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    NYCLEX has it handled. I think the general rule before you think of any lawsuit is to:

    (1) Read the contract! Almost all issues will flow from the paper.

    (2) Find the terms in the contract that address the issue in question. See whether you have a case or how difficult it may be to prove. There may be a clause dealing with ticket cancellation (very likely) and if procedure is spelled out, you'll have a difficult time making any claims to the contrary because you agreed to all the terms and were presumed to know the procedure.

    (3) Who exactly is this agreement you made with? Is the web site merely a middleman referring you to another party? Ensure that you are dealing the right party.

    (4) If you are seeking to file a lawsuit, find a "choice of forum" clause which may also be entitled "choice of law." It might say that you agree to consent to the courts of the state of XYZ and then you will have an answer regarding jurisdiction.

    Good luck. Let us know how things turn out for you.


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