Friday, April 4, 2008


I recently read two articles, here and here, that have one thing in common; they are both situations where supposedly reputable companies have decided to charge their customer's credit cards for fees they did not disclose and/or authorize.

They reminded me of a similar situation that I had been in. I had purchased two tickets on United Airlines. I reserved the flights on their web site, and called the company to redeem two discount vouchers, neither of which could not be redeemed online. The person I spoke to confirmed the price, took my credit card information, and issued me two electronic tickets. I was asked to mail the vouchers to United, and I later received a receipt in the mail for the correct amount. When I received my credit card bill, I saw one charge for correct amount from United, as well as two additional charges from United labeled "ticket by mail" for $15 each.

I called the airline to complain that not only had I not ticketed the flight by mail, but more importantly, I was not notified of this charge and I did not authorize it.

I was first told their was nothing they could do. When I asked for a supervisor, I was then told that they would send me, get this, another voucher! I refused this offer and told them that they had made an unauthorized charge on my credit card and if it was not refunded immediately I would dispute the charge with the credit card company. I was refunded the charge.

The moral of the story is that companies can not charge your credit card without your authorization. Just because I give out my card number to purchase item A, it doesn't mean that they can charge you in excess of what you authorized for that purchase; or for item B or fee X. All charges and fees must be presented and a total amount must be given, or the charge is not authorized.

Furthermore, just the threat of a credit card chargeback is enough to get most companies to back down. Chargebacks are very costly, and the more chargebacks that are made, the more a company will be charged for each credit card transaction in the future. In the case of an airline or hotel chain that receives virtually %100 of it's revenue from credit card transactions, chargebacks are avoided at all cost.

Remember this next time a company tries to impose an unauthorized fee on you and fight back.

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