Getting screwed with online payments

thermalben's picture
thermalben started the topic in Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 8:45am

So, last week I booked three return flights to Europe for me and my two girls (off to see the Irish family for a few weeks). Paid with a VISA debit card. Came to around $6,500 all up.

As I paid for the booking, the airline immediately placed a 'hold' on this account of $6,500. Fair enough.

Three days later, they debited three amounts from my account (one for each ticket), which came to the total price of the flights. All cool.

But, the previous "hold" of $6,500 was not removed - even though they had already banked my money.

And now - seven days after the booking was made - it has still yet to be removed.

Because the balance in that account (used for bills, groceries, etc) is less than $6,500, I can't touch a cent of my own money. And I also can't transfer any of the money already in the account - all of it real - into another linked account.

Even worse, we have a number of bills that are direct-debited from this account on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. Even though there ARE funds in the account to cover these bills, because of the airline's $6,500 "hold" on our account, these bills will be rejected by the bank. And every time this happens, I will be charged a 'dishonour' fee.

I spoke with someone the bank on Monday morning. They "can't do anything", and suggested the airline send a fax to them advising them to "release these funds as they are no longer required". I will have to wear the dishonour fees, apparently.

I then spoke to someone at the airline for over an hour (!) on the telephone. This person said that they would fax the requested information to St George.

However, the funds still have yet to be released (48 hours later), so I can only assume that the airline person didn't do what he said they would.

Am I right to be outraged? I paid upfront for my airline tickets but now am at mercy of either the bank, VISA, the airline booking company or the airline. Meanwhile I can't access my own money and am being charged dishonour fees when I know there's enough money in my account.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 9:01am

Which airline was it Stu?

Yes, you are right to be outraged. I think you may have to take this a little higher than the initial point of contact with the bloke on the help line.

Third, as you had informed the bank immediately and technically the funds are there, you shouldn't have to pay the dishonour fees. Document it and forward to the bank, I'm sure they will waive the dishonour fees. It has happened to me and I just threatened to walk. I got a curt email that as a gesture of goodwill, the dishonour fees would be waived based on my previous banking history. Good luck.

Banks! Necessary evil, can't stand 'em.

1173

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 9:23am

Everything was booked and paid for via Expedia, and they're the people I've been dealing with over the phone since. Booked with them a few times and haven't had this issue before. The airline is Etihad but I've had no contact with them at all for the booking (as an airline they've been great in the past too).

Main problem is that everyone's handballing the issue, and there are potentially four companies for me to "follow up" - and I don't have an hour per company to dick around on the phone with. Especially when they don't end up doing what they say they will!

The dishonour fees are only $9 each but it's the principle of the thing. On that point I'm totally off direct debiting (and not just since this incident) - it's just getting too hard to coordinate. Sounds great in principle but because every company bills on a different day - and has different payment systems that take differing amounts of time to complete, you never really know where you're at - what payments are coming in the next few days, what payments are running late due to a long weekend, etc etc.

I'm gonna cancel 'em all and go back to posting money orders.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 9:24am

PS - it's Ben with a rant, not Stu this time! haha

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 9:38am

That's the problem with service industries. Once the cash is locked in, they couldn't give a rats.

I pay 90% of my business and personal bills by hand at the bank/post office/convenience store. Sure it takes up a bit more of my time, but I know exactly where I'm at. I too have been put off direct debit.

I'd say your first call is Expedia and take it higher. You might want to mention tha fact that you have a web business that has a direct and daily link to thousands of travellers- that should give you some extra leverage- ha ha. Good luck once again.

1173

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 9:39am

I agree with Zen.

Do you know your branch manager? Even if you don't, ring and make an immediate appointment. Instruct them to sort out the mess with the airline, as you have entrusted them with your money so it is their responsibility to ensure you are not unnecessarily penalised. You are providing them a service by having your money entrusted with them.
If they give you bullshit banter, don't put up with it, tell them you are closing your account immediately, want all your funds in full and goinging elsewhere.
It sounds heavyhanded but they are fucking you around and inconveniencing your every day living and costing you money in the meantime. You pay them fees, so make them earn it. Play the game straight back at them.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 10:40am

Unbelievable. Just called the bank - they "don't have any authority" to release the hold. They can only do it if they get a fax from Expedia (who conveniently didn't send them one on Monday, when they said they would).

Part of the problem is that the "hold" is one amount of money, whilst the transaction was made via three payments (I have no idea why, it certainly wasn't at my request). Even though the three payments add up to the same amount as the hold, it doesn't matter. Therefore the bank claims that there could be some merit in the hold, and therefore can't release it. It's a safeguard for merchants apparently (so much about the consumer!).

Apparently any merchant is allowed to put a hold on funds for 7 days, and keep it there regardless if they take the funds out before the 7 day period has expired (incredible!).

As such I have been told that, assuming Expedia/Etihad don't charge me an additional $6,500 overnight (as they could technically do via the existing hold), my bank account will be back to normal tomorrow morning.

But how's this - if Expedia/Etihad do charge me or somehow manage to enforce the hold beyond today, the only option is for me to make a claim via the bank. Apparently that could take six more weeks for to resolve - that's right - six more weeks without access to my own money.

Even the person from the bank sounded pretty surprised that this could actually happen.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 10:45am

Fitz - nah, I don't know the branch manager. Which is weird because we have a home loan with them too.

Main problem is - and I'm sure the banks know this must be the case for many people - I don't have time to threaten switching banks. I'm flat out as it is. Hence why they're not willing to really help.

Worst thing is that Monday they said it'd be fixed by Tuesday. Tuesday they said it'd be fixed by Wednesday. Today they say it'll be fixed by tomorrow (and there's a reasonable chance that it will, too).

But how do you make up for four days of inconvenience where I couldn't even access my own money?

I think I will have to make some time to visit them and express my displeasure in person. I'm sick of speaking to 'customer service' people on the phone, who know it's unlikely they'll randomly draw your phone call again.

mundies's picture
mundies's picture
mundies commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 8:58pm

Ben - doesnt take long to threaten to leave, just to follow up on the threat. But the "I'm gonna leave card" is best played with someone who actually makes a difference ie branch manager. My wife is a classic - Telstra have caused us a few run arounds over the years, she demands recompense. They agreed to waive an amount off future bills which consisted of how many hours it took her to sort out the problem (which was their problem that then became our problem) based on our company's hourly rate. I imagine the same could be requested of a bank based on them waiving fees. They wont like it but it is a good way of shifting the true cost of their problem (that they made yours) back to them. Or force them to take notice and fix the problem pronto.

mundies

mundies's picture
mundies's picture
mundies commented Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 at 8:59pm

Good luck with that by the way Ben! That sort of stuff gives me the shits.

mundies

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 28 Jun 2012 at 11:13am

Well, I've finally got access to my own money. Eight days after the initial transaction.

There's a lesson in all of this - next time you buy an airline ticket on the web, make sure you've got more than double the purchase price in the kitty, just to appease the merchant.

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Thursday, 28 Jun 2012 at 11:33am

@thermal , glad you got that sorted, with the dollars you spent on your tickets was there a big saving by doing it online....as to using a travel agent to handle it all ?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 28 Jun 2012 at 11:39am

Not sure victor, I've only ever booked online (always feels kinda weird rocking up to the airport with a passport and an email receipt on my iPhone!). As it was I reckon I managed to save at least $200-300 just by looking around - not all online airfares are the same.

Surf trips are a different matter though, especially if you're traveling with a few people. It's well worth getting a surf travel agent to do it all for you - sure you can book your flights yourself but the accomodation/charter/transfer part can be a pain in the arse, trying to coordinate them to minimise downtime at airports and hotels. Nice to have someone to call too if something goes wrong.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 28 Jun 2012 at 11:41am

Good that you got it sorted Stu- 8 days mind you.

What price do you put on your time though?

Bastards!!

1173

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 28 Jun 2012 at 11:45am

Sorry- Ben.

So used to Stu's 'rants' as you put it- ha ha!

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