million-dollar fine for deceptive practices and lack of pandemic reimbursement
United States sanctioned the airline British Airways for failing to provide refunds to its customers for cancelled flights in 2020 and for engaging in deceptive practices. In a legal document released today, the Department for Transport announced the fine of 1.1 million dollars for “unfair and deceptive practices” against consumers.
The document explains that between March and November 2020, the British airline reported on its website that people whose flights had been cancelled or significantly delayed could “discuss refund options.” by calling a customer service number.
However, customers calling the number to ask for their money back did not get to speak to an airline representative and the problem persisted “for months”. “British Airways was unable to maintain proper operation of the phone lines,” stressed the Department for Transport, which received more than 1,000 complaints from airline customers.
In addition, there was no option on the website to submit a refund request and there was also “misleading” information that led consumers to ask for a voucher instead of a refund. “British Airways’ practices were unfair“, concluded the text justifying the fine, because consumers experienced “extreme delays” in obtaining their refunds or did not receive them at all.
The document also, however, takes up the arguments of the airline, which tried to defend itself by stressing that customer complaints should be seen in the “context of a pandemic global pandemic that caused an unprecedented number of flights to be cancelled.”
British Airways also claimed that in 2020 it delivered more than 2.8 million refundswhich, in his opinion, demonstrates that “obtaining a return of was not excessively difficult“. He also noted the airline refunded 69% of cancelled flights to and from the U.S. between March 2020 and February 2021, worth $763 million.
All in all, British Airways has 60 days to comply with the U.S. sanction that requires it to hand over $550,000 to the government and allocate the other half of the money for the claimed refunds.