Is this enough compensation? Orbitz calls off its collection agency, but …

Ah, the perils of being your own travel agent.

Polly Pedersen knows about them all too well after she tried to book airline tickets from Philadelphia to Detroit on Orbitz.

“A screen came up saying ‘technical difficulties,'” she says. “So I thought, “OK, they’re having problems with their site. I’ll book elsewhere.'”

For future reference, it’s not OK to book elsewhere when you get an error message as you’re buying an airline ticket. You have to make sure the reservation didn’t get made. Otherwise you could end up with two tickets for the same flight.

One way is to check your “in” box. Although Pedersen says she did, the message was filtered to her spam folder. The only evidence that Orbitz had finished the transaction was a $2 charge on her credit card. She thought Orbitz had billed her for using the site.

“There was no reservation or confirmation from Orbitz until four days later,” she says. By then, she’d already booked the same flight through Travelocity. “I spoke to a customer service person right away and got nowhere. A manager called back and left a message: ‘Too bad, but we can’t help you.'”

So Pedersen did what any self-respecting consumer would do when an intransigent business refuses to refund an erroneous purchase: she disputed her credit card bill.

And she won.

That didn’t sit well with Orbitz, which was on the hook for her Delta Air Lines tickets. It referred the case to a collection agency, which contacted Pedersen and did all the awful things collection agencies do, including threatening to ruin her credit rating.

Pedersen contacted me to see if I could talk some sense into Orbitz. I asked Orbitz about her case, and it reconsidered the whole collection agency thing. The online travel agency offered her ticket credits if she agreed to settle up her bill. But she’d still have to pay a $150 change fee to rebook her tickets.

A quick call to Delta got the fee reduced to $50, and for her, it was a small price to pay to get a collection agency off her back.

“I am very relieved,” she says. “Next time, I’ll book directly through the airline. No more online! My kids forbid me.”

I’m happy for her, too. I guess the real question is: Whose technical problems were they in the first place? Did the Orbitz servers go on the blink, or did Pedersen’s Internet connection fail at the precise moment she was trying to buy tickets?

If the problem was on Orbitz’ side, why should this customer have to pay for tickets she didn’t want? And a collection agency? Come on, that’s a little heavy-handed, don’t you think?

Still, this is a lot better than where Pedersen started, with some collection agency harassing her. But did Orbitz — and Delta — do enough for this customer?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Christophe

    Small price for a good lesson : online travel agency don’t charge you for a quote !
    And I very much agree with the kids !…

  • Eric

    Umm, the fact that the confirmation from Orbitz didn’t show up until four days after the fact makes me believe the problem was on their end, not hers.  Even if she called her CC company to check on whether there was a charge, if the charge wasn’t processed until the next day, how would she know.  I might check Orbitz or Travelocity to see which carriers serve a given destination, but I would book directly with an airline.  The guarantees trumpeted by those sites, especially Orbitz, are made to sound iron-clad, but in reality they’re almost worthless.

  • Raven

    Orbitz is a joke. If their website crashed–which is evident by the OP not receiving a confirmation until days later–then they should be on the hook for the tickets.

    I would also report them to the BBB and any agency that handles debt collectors. Seems to me that Orbitz is using their own technical difficulties to run a game on it’s customers. 

    But then, I’m the cold hearted one of the group.

  • SirElmo60

    Unless Delta would have completely waived the change fee, she was still ripped off by Orbitz.  I would not trust any “credit” from a place that did business like this.  While they claim they have given her the credit, I would like to hear what happens when she tries to use them.  It sounds like she had to pay Orbitz for the tickets anyways to get that credit.  I’m guessing they will have disappeared into a black hole when she goes to use them.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    I don’t know what’s so difficult about dealing with debt collectors regarding erroneous bills. I had to do this on a couple of occasions, most recently was a few years ago when AT&T tried to bill me for an extra month of cell phone charges, after I told them to take a hike.

    I have no idea what are those “awful things” that a collection agency does. They can’t really do anything except send you letters, maybe call you. I see nothing particularly “awful” about getting some letter in the mail, and sending your own reply. And caller-ID takes care of phone calls, even in those rare situations where they have your phone number.

    The most awful thing about it, really, is the few bucks you get to pay to mail a certified mail response back to the collection agency, telling them to go and jump off the nearest cliff.

    Theoretically, a collection agency can take you to court. But the dirty little secret is that they prefer to do it only if they believe they’ll get a default judgement, just by showing up, and you not. The sleazier they are, the more likely is this modus operandi. If you ignore their letters, and they believe that you’ll ignore the court summons, the more likely is that this will be their strategy.

    But, if in response to their initial letter, they get a certified mail back from you, that they get to sign for, that tells them exactly what you want them to do with their letter, and where they can put it, that’ll tell them that you’re going to put up a fight, so they’ll just move on to the next chump, who’ll ignore their letters, their court summons, and they’ll get an easy default judgment on.

    The few times I had to deal with bill collectors for myself, or on behalf of other family members, I never heard from them a second time. One half-exception was one occasion where the phony debt was tossed to another collection agency, and I got an amusing letter from them, threatening various things, regarding a debt I already told another agency to go away.

    And I never heard from that second bunch of yahoos after I wrote them back, told them that I already disputed this nonsense with the first agency, never heard back, thus proving that it’s nonsense, and, by the way, here’s a copy of one of my state’s regulations for bill collectors stating that you can’t threaten any of the crap you wrote in your letter, so go away before I taunt you again. They did.

    Mme Pedersen should’ve simply told the agency to go and jump off the cliff, why they should go jump off a cliff, and how she’ll help them to jump off a cliff, and she would’ve never heard from them again.

  • emanon256

    This is why I tell everyone that will listen to me, if you book on line, only book with the carrier itself.

  • cjr001

    “I have no idea what are those “awful things” that a collection agency does.”

    How about: harassing your friends and family? Your neighbors? Attempting to find you via social media? Making physical threats against you?

    All seem to be common tactics in use these days by these ‘agencies’.

    But then, the fact that Orbitz lost this case with the credit card means that they should never have been allowed to turn this over to collections; their beef was no longer with the customer, but the credit card company.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    I would like very much for some collection agency to do something like that to me. That’s a statutory violation of the FCRA. Looking around, it’s easy to find endless stories of people turning around and suing debt-collectors, getting an easy, slam-dunk victory to the tune of $500-$1000 a pop.

    Not a lot of people know their rights, so not a lot of people turn the tables like that, but the ones that do, it’s easy beer money. There’s even a small cottage industry of consumer lawyers (Google “National Association Of Consumer Advocates”) who’ll take that on a contingency. If you have multiple, documented, evidence of a collection agency doing that, in clear violation of the FCRA, you can find a NACA lawyer who’ll grab the sleazeballs by their onions, haul them into court, get a judgement, keep a portion for his own troubles, and you’ll get the rest.

    In reality, this kind of harassment only starts after you ignore the sleazeball’s initial demand letter, thus demonstrating to the sleazeball that you do not know your rights, and they’re likely to get away with their harassment. If you assert your rights under the FCRA immediately, they’ll go away, and rather spend their time on another chump, who doesn’t.

  • john4868

    cjr … All of those tactics are illegal. As soon as you send them a certified letter stating that you dispute that you owe them or the original company any money they have to leave you alone. If not you can file a claim against the company for harassment.

    The fact that Orbitz lost the cc dispute just means that they failed to establish the person gave consent to have their card charged not that they made the purchase.

  • Konoliz

    Shouldn’t Orbitz go after the credit card agency? In the case of a charge dispute isn’t it the banks right/responsibility to determine who pays if the bank allows the chargeback?

  • Livermorebrianc

    I don’t understand why people even use these sites for airlines anymore. I’ve never booked through one and this is just another reason why I don’t.

    Search Orbitz or travelocity sites find the best deals and book directly with the airline. Better yet, search through find the best deal and book directly. It’s far less headache and I’ve never experienced a problem.

  • Carver

    Much what you stated is true.  Your go away letter works but has certain rstrictions. It doesn’t work against the initial creditor. For example, if Orbitz had an in-house collections department, they could ignore the go away letter.

    Also, when sums are substantial, they agency is likely to use auto dialer to call every two hours                                                     

  • RWD

    I still don’t know why anyone books anything through a third party.

  • Chris in NC

    Illegal or not, questionable practices are still going on.

    While its true that a consumer has “rights” that doesn’t stop the Collections Agents from collections attempt.

    While under the FCRA the Collections Agency cannot collect or report to a Credit bureau an unverified or disputed debt, the so called “verification” process is a joke.

  • Carver

    Unfortunately thos remedies won’t work.

    BBB has little national reach. Its best for local business.

    As far a reporting the debt collectors, they haven’t done anything wrong. So that’s a meaningless gesture.

  • Chris in NC

    Ummm… Pederson got screwed.

    The only error that Pederson made was not calling Orbitz when she got the error screen. While Orbitz “technically” has a right to call a Collections Agency after losing a chargeback appeal, it is a highly questionable business tactic.

    Delta shouldn’t be off the hook either. If it is true that Pederson booked an identical itinerary (“By then, she’d already booked the same flight through Travelocity.”) it should be obvious that this was a double booking. Anyone at Delta with an ounce of brain cells should be able to conclude that 2 Polly Pederson’s with the same secure flight data has to be a double booking.

  • Don Brown

    Amen to Orbitz and Travelocity et al being dangerous places to book travel. Unfortunately the infrequent travelers do not know that so they see the TV ads and believe them .. tsk tsk

  • Guest

    because sometimes a third party gets you tickets you couldn’t get yourself.  Last November I went to visit a friend in Europe a bit last minute.  Booking on cheaptickets or something like that enabled me to get a decent priced flight using one airline to one point in Europe where I then switched to another airline and on the way back I used two different airlines.  I couldn’t have made those reservations myself without a LOT of hassle and a LOT more money buying 4 essentially one way tickets. 

  • cjr001

    Pretty much what Chris said: we know these tactics are illegal. They certainly know they’re illegal, as do a lot of people.

    Yet, unfortunately, that hasn’t really stopped them in the least.

    Elliott just wrote a column over the weekend about how TSA and police are ignoring our right to take photographs in public places. Look at what the banking industry is having to through now regarding their foreclosure practices.

    It seems fewer and fewer people care about what is law and what is legal.

  • flutie’s girl

    i’m confused, mostly because i really have never done a charge dispute with my credit card company like the one described here. 
    if she won her dispute, didn’t she get her money back?  so isn’t she done?
    why would Orbitz still make her pay anything? and why did she pay them a dime?  she WON her claim! i would tell them to take a hike.
    somebody explain this to me, please. honestly, i don’t get it.

    i understand the collections agency hassle. i have been dealing with them for awhile, about some medical stuff that i’m disputing with my insurance company. they are really obnoxious, but so far they haven’t done anything illegal.  except for the one collector who, after i told them i’d already mailed a check (and they demanded to know what check #, etc), insisted i tell them where i work.  are you kidding me? i know it’s illegal to call me at work, so why in the world is that relevant to Verizon? beware of these jerks! (and they’re still calling me even though i’ve sent the payment in!)

  • Jenny

    The OP bears some, if not most of the responsibility. She obviously reached a point where she entered her credit card information, and should have assumed it “went somewhere.” If you encounter an error, get a screenshot, write down the exact text of the error, contact the website/company immediately to make a record of the issue. Also, why wouldn’t she contact Orbitz when she saw the $2 charge? (Which sounds like an authorization hold.) And if you’re specifically looking for a confirmation email, why wouldn’t you check your spam folder?

    I’m not sure I understand the resolution, though. Did Delta give Orbitz a refund and Orbitz is offering flight credits, or did Orbitz negotiate a flight credit directly with Delta? Shouldn’t Delta have noticed the double reservation in the first place, assuming she was trying to travel on a specific day? I guess I will vote “no,” but only because I think if they were willing to waive $100 of the change fee, it should have all been waived.

  • Jeff R

    I regard to the question, “Did Orbitz offer Polly enough compensation?,” it doesn’t seem like Orbitz offered her any compensation. It appears that Orbitz demanded she fully pay up what the credit card company relieved her of, and then they would give her a future travel credit in that amount, less the airline change fee. How’s is that any renumeration? That’s the standard operating procedure when there is no dispute. Since the problem is likely with their site, and given their poor response to it, they should just close out her account and refund any money she sent them.

  • steve martin

    For future reference, it’s not OK to book elsewhere when you
    get an error message as you’re buying an airline ticket. You have to
    make sure the reservation didn’t get made. Otherwise you could end up
    with two tickets for the same flight.Search and compare prices on cheap flights, get last minute cheap flights, business class flights deals from all major airlines

  • Tony A.

    Some kind of GOV’T. REGULATION (maybe from DOT)  is need for *ONLINE* ticketing agencies (OTAs). The regulation should include the Maximum Amount of Time the Online Ticketing Agency can deliver a valid ticket on the same online session without considering the transaction Null and Void and prohibiting them from charging a credit card.

    It is only common sense that a buyer expects to finish a online sale transaction within a reasonable online session time frame. (In fact if you logon to any of these OTA sites. search and select a fare, then do nothing; after about 5 minutes, the search is stale and you will be required to start allover again. Therefore, it is reasonable that an e-ticket be delivered online during the same session within 5 minutes.)

    Is is not reasonable to deliver an online transaction 4 days later!
    It is also reasonable that the buyer expects ticket delivery online (and not by email messages.)
    It seems that their inability to deliver an e-ticket in a timely manner was the reason why Orbitz lost the credit card chargeback challenge in the first place. So maybe they let loose the dogs (collectors) to get even.

    Please note I make a distinction between a true ONLINE TICKETING Agency and CLICK and MORTAR travel agencies that book ORDERS online but do cannot ticket online. In my opinion, the later are very dubious. They usually collect credit card information BEFORE they provide a reservation (PNR) confirmation. Therefore, the buyer has no guarantee that they can get a ticket BEFORE they enter their credit card info. And since these firms really don’t ticket online, the buyers can be in limbo for a very long time. Caveat Emptor!

  • BillC

    I have a different take on this. It looks like the original email went to her spam folder where she would have noticed that the exchange went through. I am a little suspicious of her claim that she thought a $2.00 charge was for using the website. That would made me clue in that the purchase did occur. 

    I am not entirely sure what exactly happened here, did she find a better price the next day? The email went to her spam folder so it was sent. Orbitz did charge $2.00 which she noticed. Something doesn’t ring true here.

    I hate to say it but I do not think that there were any technical difficulties, just a client who found a better price shortly after purchase and decided to attempt a refund on a non-refundable item. It looks like she did ok.

  • Funtalkermitts

    I believe both parties erred in this dispute, Pedersen for not phoning the Airline direct to clarify the “online” technical difficulties, Which then could have made way to correcting the problem inthe first instance, and Orbitz for sending a collection agency.  The result was that Orbitz called off its collection dudes, but no mention whether or not it also had the collection agency wipe it records clean of this dispute on behalf of Pedersen, these disputes remain on the persons Credit History I believe and this could cost Pedersen sometime in the future, so, I would want my credit history cleared up as well if I were that person.  

  • Jenny

    I don’t know why Orbitz didn’t fight the dispute originally. If she authorized the charge (which she did) and goods were provided (which they were) they should have won.

    As far as sending it to collections, the best they can do is recover a fraction of the money they were out. And then by calling off the collections they probably had to pay the agency a fee. Not to mention the feed the credit card company charges for the dispute. Why shouldn’t they try to recover money from the OP?

    Sure, they could have done more when she contacted them originally, and maybe should have. But she also didn’t do anything to help herself: Not checking her email and not contacting them when she encountered and error or saw the first charge.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    I’m with JeffR down below.  Orbitz website was down.  The OP got an error. I travel quite a bit and I probably would have assumed the same as the OP. I rarely check my spam folder so it would have passed me by as well.

    But, I never buy through the opaque sites, only through the airline.  I’ll use the opaque sites to find the least expensive ticket then buy from the airline who will generally give you a discount of a few dollars for buying through their site.  Too much can go wrong with sites like Orbitz or Travelocity.  At one time, these were the places to go for less expensive tickets but not any longer.

  • Tony A.

    Because for Non-E.U. International Destination, you can still get cheaper tickets from airline ticket consolidator, that’s why.
    And, these are sold through brick and mortar travel agents who you can talk to and are willing to book reservations and hold them for at least 72 hours.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I agree with Carver – BBB isn’t helpful in this case.  (Not sure in what cases they really *are* helpful, but that’s a subject for another of Chris’ consumer columns.)

    When dealing with debt collectors (mistaken identity and in-law stuff – not my own!), I refer to the states Attorney General of Nebraska, the location of the business and of the debt collector.  I also send the certified letters, as outlined by Sam Varshavchik.

    As for being “the cold hearted one of the group” – I try only to post those things that I could run past my pastor.  But I sure do *think* along the lines that you post! :) 

  • Mark K

    When you win a charge dispute your credit card company refunds the money to you.  Depending on the amount, they either write it off or they bill the merchant for the amount they refunded to you. 

    You would think this is the end of it, and it is as far as the credit card is concerned.  The merchant, in this case Orbitz, is most likely out the money.  So they send the charge to a collections agency because they want their money.  There are no laws stating that merchants can’t do this although if the collection action goes to court they will probably lose since the credit card company sided with the customer.  Most customers don’t want to or can’t attend the court hearings because the collection agency will file in a location that is inconvenient for the customer to reach and so the customer just pays it off to remove the chance this would be listed on their credit report.

    Another couple things to note.  If you file too many disputes with your credit card company, they are less likely to take your side.  So be very careful about disputing more than 1 or 2 charges a year if even that many.  Besides, if you find yourself having to dispute more than that, you probably should be more careful about who you do business with.  Also, the lower your credit score and the shakier your payment history is with your credit card company, the less likely your credit card will side with you.

  • Carver

    Your post basically absolves orbitz of any responsibility in this matter.  E-tickets are supposed to be instantaneous. 4 days is an unreasonable long time to wait for tickets.  It is not unreasonable to assume that they were never booked. 

    I see no reason why the OP must play Sherlock, turning over rock to investigate Orbitz

  • Bob

    I said yes, but only because we have no idea if the “technical difficulties” were on Orbitz’s end or on Polly’s end. If Orbitz was experiencing some type of outage, then absolutely Orbitz needs to have issued a full refund and an apology.

    Also, Polly should wait a few weeks and then pull her government-mandated free credit reports at to make sure that the collection agency remembered to delete the collection item. 

  • Bob

    In this case, the debt was valid, according to Orbitz. And why should Orbitz think any differently? Polly actually made an order at their site (and we have no idea on whose end these “technical difficulties” occurred).

    As far as what the debt collector can do, they can place a collection item on your credit report, which will lower your credit score. It can also disqualify you from getting a loan or an apartment (I will not rent to someone with an open collection item on his or her credit report. I don’t give a hoot what the score is. If they stiffed someone else, they could stiff me too). The debt collector can also sue you.

  • Bob

    Uhh, your credit card issuer is not a court of law. Just because your credit card issuer approves your chargeback doesn’t mean you don’t still owe the money.

    When you do a chargeback, you should assume that if you are successful, the company could still attempt to collect the debt. That means the account could be turned over to a debt collector or you could be sued.

  • DavidS

    There is a “My Trips’ tab on Orbitz’ home page. Enter your email and password an it takes you to a list of your active itineraries.

  • Chris in NC

    “In this case, the debt was valid, according to Orbitz.”

    and that’s why the FCRA is a farce. When you dispute a so called “debt” it does not stop the collections process. it simply requires the Collection Agency to provide documentation it is a valid debt. Had Pederson disputed the debt, all the Collection Agency would do is to “verify” that indeed she owed Orbitz the amount in question.

    The notion that sending a certified letter stating that the debt is not valid and that you are aware of your rights, and wa-la the debt collector goes away is a fantasy. It simply does not happen this way. The ONLY way for Pederson to make this go away and not adversely ding her credit is to get Orbitz to “call off the Credit Agency.

    Since Orbitz believes it has a valid “debt” it is a “legal” collections despite the chargeback levied by the CC agency. Ethically, when Orbitz lost the CC chargeback, it should not proceed further, and write off the expense. By definition, the CC is saying, you do not have enough “proof” to justify that the Pederson made a transactions within the terms and conditions of the CC. That’s the reason why I question Orbitz’s business ethics.

  • Chris in NC

    You have way simplified things here. When you receive a letter from a collections agent, you have 30 days to respond. 

    If you do not respond, they can proceed with legal proceedings

    If you respond, the debt will come back as “verified” Why? Because Orbitz says it is. It will NOT make the Collection Agency go away. 

    Obviously if the Collection Agency violates rules (ie calls you at work, reports the debt until it is verified), then you can sue, but your statement “Mme Pedersen should’ve simply told the agency to go and jump off the cliff, why they should go jump off a cliff, and how she’ll help them to jump off a cliff, and she would’ve never heard from them again” is simply wrong.

    The ONLY solution at this point (which is what Pederson did) is to get Orbitz to call off the debt collector. 

  • Carver

    Chris in NC

    I’ve dealt with credit collections in my practice.  Basically, the certified letter prevents third party collections from contacting you except to notify you that they intend to sue you.  It has no effect on the original creditor or its agents.

    This is a powerful weapon for consumers as the average collector’s main weapon is the harassment of the telephone calls.

    Also, only certain types of debts can be placed on a credit report prior to adjudication.  Certain consumer loans such as credit cards, mortgages, car loans etc. are fair game.  But a contractual dispute shouldn’t find its way to a credit report.

    As far as chargebacks are concerned, Orbitz losing the chargeback, says nothing about the validity of the debt.  More often it means that Orbitz  didn’t follow the rules that the cc company set down, e.g. swiped card v. manually entered, etc.  Its not an unethical business practice to go after the OP merely because it lost the chargeback.

  • Jenny

    The confirmation email came 4 days later, but the OP did receive an email in her spam folder which she neglected to check. That is not Orbitz’s fault. If the OP advised them she intended to dispute the charge, maybe they should have done more. Bottom line, she DID buy the ticket, and I don’t blame Orbitz for trying to collect. She didn’t have to agree to pay them back, she could have negotiated a settlement with the collections agency as well.

  • Chris in NC

    Not really disagree with you. Agree that contractual dispute shouldn’t find its way to a credit report, but it often does. The main weapon a Collections Agent has is not the harassing phone calls (in the day of caller ID), but the threat to place an unpaid collections on your credit report. For those of us who have excellent credit, this has grave consequences.

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding of the FCRA is that once the debt is verified, the CA can legally report it to the credit bureaus. If this is not true, please feel free to correct me. I’m not convinced that the OP sending a letter to the CA would have made this “go away.”

    If a company can send you to collections and/or sue you because you used a credit card, disputed it and won, then what’s the purpose of the so called “consumer protection” benefits of using a credit card. After all, the CC is a form of mediation to resolve these so called “disputes” and there are many cases where the CC company refuses to issue the chargeback.

  • Tony A.

    QUESTION – Did Orbitz Fail to Deliver an E-ticket to Polly Pedersen within a reasonable period of time? If the answer is “Yes, Orbitz failed to deliver on time”, then how can we even assume there was a Valid Sale?

    Do we have a copy of the sales contract, or the terms and conditions of sale of Orbitz? Was Orbitz required by contract to produce an e-ticket online (and not by email) immediately after it collected and validated Pedersen’s credit card? Isn’t it reasonable for Pedersen to go buy the ticket somewhere else if Orbitz’ site was down or having difficulties?

  • Clare

    I too am stunned that Orbitz had the chutzpah to go after the OP after her credit card company went after Orbitz.  Did the OP tell her credit card co. what Orbitz did to her? 
    If not, she should.  I once successfully disputed a travel agent’s charge with Visa (a very cut-and-dried case which the travel agent was nonetheless fighting).  The person working my case at Visa–who was outraged at the travel agent’s conduct–said she was hoping that when she got done submitting all the right paperwork to the right people, they would refuse to do business with that travel agent ever again.

  • Carver

    The problem is, until you have a confirmation e-mail you don’t have a ticket.  The first e-mail is a confirmation that you have placed an order for a ticket.  But it’s the second e-mail thats important.  That’s the one that you can use to obtain boarding passes.  That e-mail can come back negative for any number of reasons.

    The OP should not have to wait 4 days to know if she has a ticket on the flight.  That factor, combined with the error message nullifies the sale.

  • Carver


    If delivery is an element of the contract, then failure to deliver in a time that is reasonable based upon common expectations can be grounds for breach of contract.

  • Bob

    “Ethically, when Orbitz lost the CC chargeback, it should not proceed further, and write off the expense. ”

    That is patently ridiculous. Some random credit card issuing bank is not a judge or jury in a court of law. That’s why we have civil courts–to resolve disputes such as this one. 

  • Bob

    “Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding of the FCRA is that once the debt is verified, the CA can legally report it to the credit bureaus.”

    This is correct. 

    “If a company can send you to collections and/or sue you because you used a credit card, disputed it and won, then what’s the purpose of the so called “consumer protection” benefits of using a credit card. ”

    How was the consumer not protected? He got his money back from the merchant. But I don’t see why the consumer should get to keep that money if a judge says that the debt was valid! If you owe the money, then you need to pay!

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Well, this “fantasy” turned real for me several times. As I said, every certified letter I sent, in response to the initial demand letter, resulted in me never hearing from the collection agency, ever again.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    You are conflating two separate things. One, is the collections itself, and two, whatever appears on one’s credit report. The two things are related, but they are not the same.

    As far as collections goes, a FOAD letter will stop collectors from harassing you. After a FOAD letter, the collection agency’s only option is to take you to court. And, as I said, the collection agencies are not going to waste time on someone who’s going to fight them, when there are plenty of more easy pickins that they expect to get easy default judgements on. Of course, if the debt was for a substantial sum, and the debt collector felt they had all their ducks in a row, the chances of them deciding to take it to court will be higher. But for most small potato-fry cases, the collection agencies will only take action when the debtor does not respond, and thus is likely not to answer the summons, and give the debt collector an easy default judgement.

    Of course, there will always be exceptions, and an occasional sleazebag who will continue to harass you after getting a FOAD letter. For those cases, you sic a NACA lawyer on them.

    The story was solely about the debt collector’s harassment of the consumer, I didn’t read anything about a credit report. As far as credit report goes, and any collection items there, that’s a separate topic, and gets handled differently.

  • Mr. Consumer

    In regard to credit reporting agencies if that item shows up on your report, dispute it.
    They will then verify the ‘debt’ and reply back to you that it is valid.
    You then write them (certified return receipt) and say that you will sue them if it remains on your report.
    They will then take it off as they are reporting agencies not defending agencies and do not want to take the time or money to defend it.
    An organized consumer can get back at these companies that think they can push us around because of their size.
    Another thing if you get a collection letter you must respond within a certain number of days by certified mail and always get a receipt.
    If they continue to call or even years later you can sue them and get damages.
    Remember too there is a statue of limitations (usually 5 years), after that the debt is uncollectable.

  • ChrisY

    I’d love to see a screenshot with the supposed “technical difficulties” message.  It would cast aside (most) doubt that she really did experience that and didn’t just make up the story about getting that message.  Usually it’s accompanied by further instructions or information which could clue us in on how Orbitz handles the situation.

  • flutie’s girl

    but were your debts valid, Sam? i have valid debts that went to collections (2 while i was disputing my insurance company’s decision to deny coverage, and 1 where i closed an account and apparently still had a small balance that i was unaware of, and the company failed to send the notices to my new address–which they did have on file–for so long that it went to collections).  so if i’d just sent those collections people a certified letter, i would’ve been absolved? somehow i don’t think so!  but if you’re saying it’s only on false or mishandled debts then maybe…

  • TheInfamousJ

    According to the story, the confirmation from Orbitz /did/ show up, but it got sent to the spam folder and thus she never saw it with her eyes until after the credit card reported a charge.

  • TheInfamousJ

    Or she could just be really bad at the internet. My mother is really bad at the internet and this – not checking spam folder, thinking  that you have to pay to use a travel ticket site, not knowing what to do with a temporary 404 message – sounds like something that could happen with/to her. Especially the part about her admitting that her kids forbid her from doing this again. Lord knows, I’m long suffering on having to fix my mother’s constant e-mistakes and have banned her from such sites as Amazon. She’ll admit this after telling the story of the screw up that led to it.

    For what it is worth, on a direct booking with Ryanair (don’t ask), I got an error page after entering my credit card info. However, I saw the email that said my booking had been made. Too high a server load for the confirmation page, I suppose. It happens.

  • Bernard Rappoport

    On-line travel agencies are the bane of the industry…they add nothing to the mix.  Use the airline site or a real travel agency.  On-line agencies don’t even spend the money to have an error-free purchasing experience…and then they use heavy-handed thug tactics to try to collect.  The OP should take them to Small Claims Court…they won’t show, and she will win..and then she can harass their arrogant and aloof CEO for the money.

  • Ckbtvl

    Orbitz was wrong, but the client is also cutting off her options by going to the airline site. Go to an ASTA travel agent that will search all of the airlines. It’s worth the small fees charged. I saved a student $600.00 on an international ticket by using one of my consolidators, that was a 1/3 savings and a $40.00 charge. We are the travel agents, not the internet.

  • MikeZ

    I completely agree. She not only has to pay for the tickets, but then the change fee to use them. She also has a specific time limit to use the tickets as well.

    I would have stuck to my guns and told Orbitz to go pound salt. Even if her internet connection went down, it wouldn’t have a message saying “technical difficulties” nothing comes up and you get the standard connection failed notice from IE, FireFox,Chrome, or any of the other browsers. They screwed up and now she paid for their screw up, even after she won the case with the CC company.

    In fact, i not only would have told Orbitz to go pound salt, but I would have told the collection agency that I will sue them if they attempt to ruin my credit rating. In fact, I think it might be illegal for them to post the collection to her credit once she has disputed the charges with them.

  • JJWeldon

    The BBB doesn’t handle debt collectors.  The BBB has recently been exposed as allowing “sponsoring business” (businesses that pay a fee) to mediate the complaints.  That makes them just PR people for the businesses in my book. 

    Read the New York Times series on it:

  • Mike H

    Orbitz sent her an email – they can’t help it if she has set her privacy restrictions so tight that Orbitz’ email went to the spam filter.  And they even charged her card.

    This is a case of a person who is not tech-savvy committing to a purchase, but not realizing that she had committed to a purchase.

    As you (Christopher) make it sound like a big deal that the credit card company sided with her in the dispute.  Who is the credit card company’s customer, the one they want to keep happy?  In my opinion Orbitz was right to send the collection agency after her – she reneged on a contract.

  • Raven

    Good to know. I had a case of mistaken identity by Bank One. I was polite the first five times they called and I sent them a letter telling them to leave me alone, but they wouldn’t call off the dogs. So, I just started cussing at whoever was on the other end when they called. I also found the office of the president online and sent a copy of the original “leave me alone” letter and a letter telling them I would never do business with such an organization…and that I would bad mouth them at every given chance.

    The calls stopped, but I still tell the story because these people were such idiots.

  • Raven

    Oh ho. Thank you for this information…

  • Ted

    I was once in the middle of making reservations for a flight on Virgin America when their website went down. (It wasn’t my Internet connection. They were running a sale — though not for the time I was flying — and their servers couldn’t handle the traffic.)

    When the site came back online an hour later, the flight I had chosen had gone up in price.

    I called them, asking them to honor the original price. The rep refuse, saying that whatever the site says at a given time is final, no matter what.

    I asked him to make an exception, since my delay in paying for the ticket was clearly their fault. But he wouldn’t budge.

    I ended up buying the ticket anyway, but it left me with a sour taste about their customer service. It’s far from the worst thing an airline has ever done, but given a choice, in the future I’ll probably choose JetBlue.

  • kanehi

    You usually don’t get charged unless you click on the ‘buy’ and confirm button.  Orbitz will usually give you a reference number on the transaction and email you your itinerary.  Four days for email to be received is suspicious.