Diana Ospina calls me every day.
Not the same Ospina, and it’s not always a phone call. It’s sometimes an email. But it’s always a Diana Ospina case. A credit card problem that messed up a reservation — usually an airline reservation.
Today, I need to know if I should take cases like Ospina’s. Maybe you can help me figure it out.
Ospina offered Icelandair her credit card information when she made a flight reservation last year. Then, last fall, she needed to make a change to her ticket, authorized the $200 change fee, and offered her credit card information again, this time by phone.
So you can imagine her surprise when months later, Icelandair asked for $200 again, plus a $280 fare differential.
“I was told that I did give my credit card information when this reservation was rebooked last September, but the $200 change fee was not paid was because the security number allegedly wasn’t correct,” she says. “Icelandair told me that they emailed me, but I never received any emails. I have requested that they forward the emails they allegedly sent in September but they are telling me they can’t find them.”
That’s right — it’s the ol’ “your credit card number is invalid” story.
Ospina wants Icelandair to waive the $280 fare difference, which she wouldn’t have had to pay if her credit card had run when Icelandair received it.
This happens more often than you’d think. I rarely cover it because there’s no easy solution. But here’s a 2014 case involving AirTran that got a little digital ink.
So here’s my question: Whose fault is this? And who should take responsibility?
There’s the company position on invalid credit card numbers: The customer is responsible. While we’ll will do everything we can to notify a customer when a card doesn’t run (but please don’t blame us if you use a spam filter!), a bad card isn’t our fault. And it’s not our problem if we have to run the card again and there’s a fare differential.
And here’s the consumer’s point of view: If a company takes a card and offers a receipt, I should have a reasonable assurance that the card worked. If a representative typed the security code in the wrong way, at least do me the courtesy of notifying me. Otherwise, it’s on you, corporate America.
Of course, that lets the credit card companies and banks off the hook. Truth is, the systems are optimized to take money, but deeply flawed and generally unable to help consumers when something goes wrong. Even existing laws like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which banks and credit card companies wish didn’t exist, don’t really address problems like Ospina’s.
In the end, everything gets thrown back on the consumer. Missed one of the 16 digits in your credit card number? Your fault. Forgot your security code? Your fault. Need to pay more for a product? Your fault.
If it were only that simple.
“I want Icelandair to honor the ticket,” says Ospina.
I’m inclined to help her, but I know what Icelandair will say. Not our fault. In fact, I’m inclined to help other customers like her, but I also know the merchant will say the same thing. Go away. It’s not our problem.
But I disagree. I think it is their problem. It’s a problem that belongs to all of us. A fix will have to involve all of us, including credit card companies, banks, merchants — and you.