Is this Priceline “missing button” case a lost cause?

Brook Demmerle’s problem is not uncommon, but it’s usually unsolvable.

But you know me, don’t you? Always tilting at windmills. I’m a sucker for lost causes. So if you think I should jump in and get involved, I will.

This spring, Demmerle booked a cruise on Priceline through its agency site, which means it wasn’t a “name-your-own-price” booking — so it was refundable, under certain conditions. Just a few days later, Demmerle says she had to cancel the cruise because of a work-related conflict.

The Priceline rules on canceling a cruise are imprecise, at best:

Cancellation policies vary between cruise lines and they do increase as the travel date approaches. You will be provided with specific details during the booking process, and we’ll follow up by providing the fees in writing as well. It’s your responsibility to be familiar with the penalties. To protect yourself from penalties for canceling due to medical reasons, we strongly encourage you to purchase our Travel Protection plan.

Demmerle decided to buy the travel protection, just in case. When she asked for a refund, she was well within her cruise line’s refund period, and received her money back. Except for the insurance, which she hadn’t used.

“When I called Priceline to cancel and asked about the insurance, I was told that it was non-refundable and non-transferrable unless it was the exact same voyage,” she says.

That doesn’t seem right to her. She won’t need to insure her cruise anymore. Why shouldn’t she get her money back for the insurance?

Ah, but the refund rules are spelled out clearly on her confirmation, a Priceline representative told her when she called.

“When I received the email confirmation, there was a button on the top asking to confirm and below the button were the conditions. I do not recall hitting the confirm button, although Priceline claims I did,” she says.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say travel insurance is non-refundable. Most policies have a free “look” period, so if you change your mind about the insurance, you can get a complete, no-questions-asked refund. She was past that period.

The question is, did Priceline adequately disclose the refund terms?

“I did not see the small print at the very bottom of the page saying the insurance was non-refundable,” says Demmerle.

She doesn’t think it’s right.

Demmerle thinks of it in the same terms as an offer by Groupon or a Living Social. Even when the offer expires, they still have to give you the value of your expenditure under some state laws.

“Why should Priceline not have to at least give the value of what you paid?” she asks.

The way I see it, there are two separate issues. First, the disclosure of the insurance refundability. Small print is often hidden or obscured on booking pages. I’m sure the terms on her insurance say what Priceline says they say, but were they adequately and clearly shown to Demmerle?

The second issue is the problem of pushing the button. Priceline is known to keep detailed electronic records, including when a button is pushed on a booking screen. It has shown me evidence of button-pushing, even when a customer denied it.

Case closed? Probably. But Demmerle is right about at least one thing: She’s been made to feel as if Priceline and its insurance company pulled a fast one. No amount of fine print and buttons can make up for that. I share her frustration, but I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to help.

Should I mediate Brook Demmerle's case?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Update (8/14): Priceline investigated this claim and found that it had refunded her insurance, minus a $25 processing fee on June 17, a day after she had requested it. Priceline is keeping the processing fee.

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.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • DavidYoung2

    What am I missing? The customer got their entire cruise price refunded and now wants back the price of the insurance? I would say, “Ms. Customer, congratulations. You got back the full price you paid for a cruise. That’s like a “hole-in-one” as far as cruise refunds go. Be happy.”

    Besides, when does not using insurance entitle one to a refund of the premium? I’ve always felt the very best insurance is the insurance you never have to use.

    Although she canceled the cruise and no longer needs the insurance, it probably was in force for some period of time between the time she purchased it and the time she canceled. I’m sure if she needed to cancel for a ‘covered reason’ during that period, she would not have hesitated to invoke her coverage under the policy. If she was covered for even an hour, she ‘used’ the insurance. I vote ‘No.’

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    The OP seems to want to have her cake and eat it, too. Since most insurance must also be purchased at the time of paying for the cruise, what if she had read the terms and conditions? She would most likely have bought it anyway. She should ask her job to refund her the money as that makes as much sense as asking for it back from the insurance provider.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    She ran into misleading fine print, and it involved procedures in clicking on a web page button

  • John Baker

    This case is interesting.
    I know my travel insurance provider will, under certain circumstances, refund the insurance premium if there isn’t a claim against the policy and the trip is cancelled.
    I have also read Chris’s blog long enough to know that Priceline could probably dig up records tracking her mouse pointer throughout her entire booking. With that in mind, she probably did click an “Agree” button but never read the T&Cs attached to it (Lets face it, we all do it).

    I think its a lost cause and it also proves why you should buy travel insurance from someone other than the company that sold you your travel.


    You mediate so many worthwhile problems for consumers who are getting very poor treatment. This is not one of those times where the consumer is getting poor treatment. The print may have been small but she needs to assume responsibility for reading that print before purchasing a product.
    Why do so many people assume that they can pass responsibility off to someone else? “I did not read it because the print was so small and I did not see it” is a tired excuse and should automatically exclude your intervention.
    In my line of business I see this off and on: I did not read/see/understand even though I have required that they sign a from saying they did read/see/understand. Personal responsibility simply has gone by the wayside.

  • Michael__K

    “When I received the email confirmation, there was a button on the top asking to confirm and below the button were the conditions. I do not recall hitting the confirm button, although Priceline claims I did

    Hold on. Does this disclosure not appear until AFTER purchase? And if so, what does Priceline do with all the customers who don’t press this button AFTER they’ve already made their purchase? Does Priceline automatically issue them a refund?

  • Dave Kearns

    I’ve no sympathy for those who ignore the Ts & Cs of a contract then come bleating about how “unfair” they are after the fact. She had ample opportunity to cancel the insurance policy within the time limit. She didn’t. Case closed.

  • Michael__K

    I think many posters on this site want to have their cake and eat it too. It’s fun to mock travelers for not noticing every term and condition (and nevermind that the terms and conditions we’re reading by the time Chris posts an article may have completely changed since the OP read them).

    And then when someone does read the terms and conditions, posters mock them for noticing that something was not disclosed before purchase.

    And FYI: it’s common for insurers to offer either a refund or credit towards insurance for a future trip when a trip is cancelled before it becomes non-refundable. (We don’t know the insurer or policy terms in this case).

  • Bill___A

    Mediate to me means to go in and find an equitable solution. If it is found that the insurance was in force for some time then I would say it likely should not be refunded. However, if she cancelled very quickly after booking, maybe that’s not the case.

  • LDVinVA

    In my experience, travel insurance is never refundable. However, I have been able to transfer the insurance to another trip. I think if she pushed that, the insurance company would do that for her.

  • Michael__K

    What are you missing? Travel insurance is usually to protect non-refundable payments (and against certain unexpected costs *during* travel) The cruise was not non-refundable yet.

    Which travel insurance product do you use that doesn’t at least allow for a credit towards insurance for a future trip in this situation?

  • MarkKelling

    We don’t know what “a few days” amounts to before she canceled. Was that 3 or 30? How many?
    We don’t know the terms of the insurance. Was it refundable within a specific timeframe after purchase? Was it non-refundable only because that time frame had passed?
    How much did the insurance cost? At some point, fighting for a refund becomes more expensive than the price paid and, other than principle, there is no reason to continue.

    What we do know is that the refund request was far enough in advance of the cruise that a full refund was given. This refund would have been given with or without insurance coverage. Most travel insurance (every policy I have ever purchased) is refundable if cancelled within about 10 days. If the “insurance” offered by Priceline is not refundable under any circumstance, then maybe it wasn’t that good of a policy after all. I say continue prodding Priceline until a clearer explanation other than “she clicked the button” can be provided.

  • John Baker

    Actually @Michael__K:disqus its quite common that the cheaper policies or the policies sold by travel providers are non-refundable. I can’t tell you which ones (I think Disney’s included one is non-refundable) because I won’t touch a policy from the operator. I always buy one independently directly from the provider.

  • MarkKelling

    OK, I should know better than to try to read before my coffee. I missed the part where Chris stated she was beyond the insurance refund window. I change my statement now to never mind. She was beyond the insurance refund window, she should not get a refund.

  • polexia_rogue

    one question- did she get a cruise refund BECAUSE she had insurance?

    if so then she “used” the insurance. and should have to pay for the insurance.

  • Annie M

    Any insurance policy is non refundable after a certain time frame. This is the crap shoot you take when you buy insurance- you can get your deposits back for a cruise in most cases by canceling before final payment. She bought an insurance policy that would cover cancellation if she canceled when the deposit was no longer refundable. So if this person developed a serious medical condition that required them to cancel when in full penalty, the insurance would have covered her. Thats what she was buying protection for.

    People that don’t understand what they are doing booking online should use a travel agent that can explain the pros and cons of insurance, cruise fare, best cabins. Many people who think they can do it themselves to save $50 end up in predicaments like this.

    No, you should no get involved. Maybe this consumer will learn their lesson and call a professional next time.

  • Don Filiault

    While many of the legitimate travel insurance companies allow yo to transfer the insurance to another trip, there are restrictions. I had to cancel an Alaska cruise which I booked in February that was scheduled to sail this month. The restriction, when I called to transfer the insurance to a European escorted tour in 2014, was that I had to make the transfer before the sailing date of the Alaska cruise, which I did with only days to spare. In addition, the insurance package that I booked last year was no longer offered by the travel insurance company, and the prices, for the coverage I wanted, had risen significantly. To summarize, the original policy had some value, but if you don’t check on the restrictions, the policy could be worthless.

  • Annie M

    I guess you have never bought travel insurance. Travel insurance covers you if you get sick, have a death in the immediate family, etc. when you are in penalty phase. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that you may need coverage for in case you have to cancel, you must buy insurance by a certain time frame.

    Otherwise, you have an option- you can but insurance at the time of deposit and be protected from that day forward to cover yourself in case a new medical condition happens, or you can opt to wait until final payment and buy it and hope you have no new medical conditions that crop up because they would not be covered because you can get a full refund of your deposit until then.

    We’ve had clients who said they didn’t need to but insurance because they could buy it later when it was time for final payment. They both developed cancer a month after deposit and then wanted to buy insurance but then couldn’t buy insurance to cover it because they now had a pre-existing condition and needed to buy a policy within 2 weeks of making their deposit. So they had to decide at final payment to either cancel and get all their deposit back or leave it and hope they would be well enough to travel or risk losing their full payment if they had to cancel. Both decided to cancel their bucket list trips and both ended up being well enough to travel on the travel dates but had canceled. Had they bought their insurance at deposit, they could have canceled up to the day of travel and received a full refund if they were too ill to travel.

    Even if you book travel on your own, speak to a travel agent about purchasing travel insurance so you understand what is and isn’t covered and why or why not to buy at time if deposit.

  • Annie M

    Third party insurance also is non refundable usually after 10 days. There are two instances where it may be wise to buy supplier insurance- if you want Cancel for Any Reason insurance because it is usually cheaper through the supplier than a third party. And if you are over 68 or so. Third party coverage is based on amount of trip and age, supplier is based on amount regardless of age.

  • Annie M

    Wrong. Policies are usually refundable for 10 days after purchased. If you purchase the cruise lines insurance in many cases those a refundable if you cancel before final payment.

    If you don’t know the pros and cons of travel insurance you should speak to a travel professional who can explain even if you book your own trip.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    “…Since most insurance must also be purchased at the time of paying for the cruise…”
    This is not correct. You can buy insurance directly from the insurer at almost any time before you travel. Visit some sites such as,, to get some idea of what options are out there.

  • Cassondra Monique

    The article said she didn’t use the insurance which is why she wants the refund for it.

  • sirwired

    At first glance, you might think the insurance should be refunded because the customer was still within the no-penalty period and therefore there was no risk to insure. However, the policy purchase date also “fixes” the date for pre-existing conditions. This puts the insurance company at additional risk (which they do not charge for) should you carry the policy into the penalty period (where they might have to pay something out.)

    I think a “free-look” period, followed by strict non-refundability is reasonable.

  • Cassondra Monique

    The way people judge here just drives me crazy. Missing “fine print” or misunderstanding legal jargon does not in any way make a person stupid or mean they are just trying to “have their cake and eat it too”. What I see so often here is that people should have used a travel agent or should have known better than to book through a site like Priceline. Basically what you are saying amounts to “if you can’t afford to spend more money then you don’t deserve to be treated well”. Good customer care shouldn’t depend on the amount of money you spend and good-will can go a long way towards driving business in your direction. Businesses in the US have completely lost sight of this ideal and the attitudes here show why they are allowed to get away with it.

    The OP made a mistake and while she may not be due an entire refund, I do think she should be able to transfer it to another cruise so she can make use of it. This is a bit like getting a gift, not opening it, and returning it to the store after the 30 day refund window. The store will at least give you a store credit to use on something else rather than saying “too bad, you should have read all of our return policies more carefully as they are clearly laid out in 3pt. font at the bottom of your receipt in a light gray ink that is only barely legible”.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, policy coverage is usually valid up to 365 (or more) days and depending on the terms you can change your travel dates to apply your premium towards another trip.

    PS– Priceline appears to sell TravelGuard for its cruises and one should be able to change the travel dates on those policies here:

  • emanon256

    I think many people don’t understand how insurance works. The insurance companies hire a lot of very smart accountants, who look at a lot of data, and determine how many people they think will purchase policies, how many will use the policy, and how much they will have to pay out when the policy is used. They then set their price high enough that they will have enough money to pay out the policies that are used, and low enough that people will still buy the amount they believe they need to sell. The space between is their profit. The company is gambling that people will not need to use their policy, as the fewer people that use them, the more profit they make. The purchaser is gambling that they will need to use their policy, and will get more value out of it than they paid for the policy. If the customer uses the policy, they get paid, if they don’t, the premium they paid goes to the polices that are being paid out and/or to company profit. Should an insurance company refund the premium for unused policies, how would they pay out on the policies that do get used? Refunding unused policies would sink the entire business model. The insurance policy did offer a refundable window, and it was not refunded within that window. To expect a refund of an unused insurance policy is completely asinine to me. I have seen some policies where the terms and conditions said it could apply to a future trip, or a partial refund can be given if unused, etc. However those were on higher cost policies. Each policy has its own unique terms and costs. I for one would never expect and unused insurance policy to be refundable, as the unused policies are what pay for the used ones. Don’t get me wrong, insurance companies are not saints. There are many things that insurance companies do that are evil, and that I do think are cause for mediation. This case is not one of those times.

  • Michael__K

    When I go to Priceline to book a cruise, it tries to sell me this TravelGuard insurance policy:

    The policy document itself is silent (AFAICT) on the question of changing travel dates, but if you call TravelGuard, any agent will tell you that you can change your travel dates before the originally scheduled travel date here (subject to a possible rate difference):

    I wonder if the OP has tried to do this (or does she not have any other travel planned)?

  • Dutchess

    We aren’t mocking people, Mrs. Demmerle herself said the fact it was non refundable was on the page, she just didn’t bother to read it.

  • Michael__K

    On which page? The Priceline terms which Chris linked to?

    Or on the other side of a link in a confirmation email after Mrs. Demmerle already paid?

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I can’t help but feel she’s asking too much. Insurance is there “in case” you need it. I can’t go to my auto insurance company after an accident and say, “Well, the other guy paid for everything in full so I want last month’s payment back since I didn’t use it.”

    Insurance is one of those things you don’t think about until you need it, and then you’re glad to have it. It’s not a refundable payment if you don’t use it.

    Stay out of this one, Chris. She’s a bit loony, IMHO.

  • emanon256

    I equate it to saying that I have been with the same insurance provider for the last 4 years and have had no accidents, so I want a refund of all 4 years of premiums since I never used my insurance.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    But your analysis misses a critical point. An insurance quote is designed to cover a period of time and certain situations. If either of those changes, then a partial refund is due.

    For example, you prepay your car insurance for 6 months. If you cancel your insurance after 1 month, you are entitled to a refund of the remaining five months.

    In this case, the company received a windfall. It covered her for a period of time less than the original term. Thus a partial refund is appropriate.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Absolutely. While it’d be great if I could do that, I think GEICO might have a problem with it.

  • MarkKelling

    If the insurance contract you sign states you are entitled to partial refunds for partial coverage periods, then yes, you are entitled to the partial refund. I believe most auto insurance policies are written that way due to state laws. However, the insurance policy in question, like most travel insurance policies, states that there is no refund after an inspection time during which you can get a full refund (or at least this is what we are being told and this does match with every travel insurance policy I have ever bought).

    I do not believe the insurance company received a windfall or that it was unjust enrichment. They price their policy with the understanding that a certain percentage of the policies sold will be abandoned when the travelers cancel their plans and are able to get a refund of their travel packages without invoking the insurance coverage. What percentage, I don’t know, but I am sure there are armies of adjusters calculating just that aspect of their pricing.

  • MarkKelling

    I actually have a medical emergency insurance policy that does refund my premiums if I don’t use the benefits. Every 10 years I receive a check from the insurance company equal to the amount of premiums I have paid in since I have never had to use the benefits. I bought it when I was between jobs and without insurance not knowing when I would get a job with insurance coverage.

  • Michael__K

    TravelGuard (which when I check now is the insurer that Priceline offers) does allow you to change travel dates if you cancel your original plans:

  • Lindabator

    True – TravelGuard will usually give you an option good for two years in cases where you cancelled without a penalty incurred- but NEVER a refund. She may wish to contact them directly, as Priceline IS correct that it is nonrefundable, and they are in no position to give her funds they do not have.

  • Lindabator

    WRONG – Travelguard has policy terms which allow you to transfer the policy (I have two such clients at this time) to a new trip within 2 years, provided the one insured was cancelled without penalties. It can even be held as an open voucher if no trip is in the works at this time. She should contact the insurer direct with questions such as these, because there is some work to be done, but she may have options which Priceline will not be able to offer her.

  • Lindabator

    I even had a client who cancelled, and they left her voucher open for a 2 year period, but we needed to prove the original booking had no cancellation fees to do so. She should be checking with them – she may have options she cannot get with Priceline.

  • Lindabator

    Usually you choose 3rd party to waive pre-existing conditions, which MUST be taken out at time of deposit, regardless of the T&C of the trip – but they usually allow you to move to a different trip – have done this several times, and in fact have 2 clients in my files who’ve done this, as well as one whose voucher they left open for 2 years to apply to a trip later!

  • Lindabator

    No, she just was not in a cancellation penalty with the cruise lines when she cancelled, so they paid all her monies back.

  • Lindabator

    WHY would you think going to an agent would have cost more? Not only can we get the same (if not BETTER) rates as the cruise lines, we can usually get perks and upgrades they will not offer. And if she had booked this with US, we would have had the insurance company open the insurance voucher so she could use it at a later date, not have to lose it.

  • Michael__K

    I guess you don’t sell any travel insurance from reputable companies that allow you to apply your premium towards other travel dates if your plans change before your trip is non-refundable?

  • Lindabator

    Not in the case of travel insurance – it covers a SPECIFIC trip. So it is a one-time purchase, not an ongoing policy. That being said, she should have contacted Travelguard, and they could have opened the voucher for use at a later date. They CAN do that for her.

  • emanon256

    Now that’s really cool. I’m not sure how they would make a profit though, or even cover other peoples catastrophic issues.

    I signed up for an auto policy 5 years ago that said after 5 years, they would refund 50% of my premiums if I never made a claim. Two years into I got my renewal documents and they raised my rates 25% and included a notice that said the 50% return was no longer affordable and it was changing to 25% and it referenced a clause in my policy that said its subject to change at any time. I shopped around and found a new policy that was 50% of what theirs cost. When I told them not to renew, they kept telling me theirs was better because I would get my money back in 3 more years. I explained that with the new policy I was paying less now, and it was even less than staying with them for the full 5 years and getting my 25% back. They then told me it was a promotional rate and it would go up to more than theirs in 6 months and they know I will come back. Its been 3 years since then, and the policy has goes up or down around $20 every time its renewed.

  • emanon256

    I would think it depends on the specific policy and what the terms are. If it was a cheap vendor policy, the few times I have looked at them, they said they only covered the specific trip. I have seen more comprehensive travel policies that cover much more, however those policies cost more. I still believe if this policy was to cover that specific trip, it should not be refundable. (p.s. I am not the one who down voted you, I like our discussions even when we disagree).

    In the case of auto insurance once, I wanted to cancel a policy after 1 month, and was told the discounts would go away that I got based on the 6 month term, and I would actually owe them more money for just the 1 month, as the one month cost more than 6 months with discounts. This was with AIG and I still think they are crooks over my experience.

  • Marilyn P Daggett

    I have bought travel insurance for EVERY cruise I have taken and each time, the agent reminds me that Travel Insurance is non-refundable. I get it. So I buy it anyway – just in case. You never know what will happen…. Even at $129.00 (as some fees have cost me in the past), it is a fee that I need to ‘eat’ if I cancel my cruise and flight. Why can’t this gal understand that it is the price we have to pay in order for the insurance to work? So if my house doesn’t burn down, can I get a refund on the fire insurance I paid for that year, too? I don’t think so… She should be grateful that she got her cruise money back, and be done with it. And, she should have checked her work schedule before she even booked. Anyway, from what I know, you can purchase trip insurance later than the time of booking (perhaps up to 2 weeks before sailing), so if something does happen and it is far enough out (more than say, 90 days) you can get your $$ back for the cruise.

  • MarkKelling

    My policy is not for catastrophic circumstances and pays only a percentage of the total cost for emergency room visits. It is not a hospitalization policy. And they get to keep whatever money they make investing my premiums. Purchasing the policy was just so I would not be completely uninsured. I probably should cancel it now, but I’m too close to my next 10 yr payout and I will lose that if I cancel now.

    I am always cautious about these types of deals. You never know when the terms will change and you know they never change in the customer’s favor. :-)

  • Michael__K

    If this is what happened:

    When I called Priceline to cancel and asked about the insurance, I was told that it was non-refundable and non-transferrable unless it was the exact same voyage

    …and if she was sold the same TravelGuard policy that I see Priceline selling with their cruises today, then it appears Priceline gave her completely incorrect information. She cancelled within “a few days” — very possibly within the 15-day full refund window. They should have referred her to TravelGuard.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Thanks. I appreciate that. I know you’re a straight up poster. Some people down vote you because they just don’t like you.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think she meant in general, not specifically with cruises.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why should she be grateful that she got her money back. Its not as if the cruise line did her a favor. They were obligated to return the money under the terms of the contract that they drafted.

  • Lindabator

    That also goes for packages, tours, etc. :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Actually, the insurance companies hire a lot of very smart actuaries. But the rest of your statement on how insurance companies work is absolutely spot on.

    Still trying to figure out how TravelGuard could make money allowing a policy to be transferred to another trip, though, as @Lindabator:disqus indicates they will do. Seems like there would be some problems with insuring a future trip against a medical condition that might crop up.

  • emanon256

    In my book they are the same :). I worked with several on a project and they called them selves Actuarial Accountants, or actuaries for short. I figured Accountant would be a better common word. One guy I worked with said he had to calculate when he though people would die based on hundreds of factors. He said after a while one company started asking him to calculate how likely they would to be sued if they committed fraud and how much they would loses if convicted of fraud v. how much they would gain committing it, he quickly left that company.

    I am curious on TravelGuard too. My theory, is that they have trip policies sold via an OTA for a low cost that cover a specific trip and nothing more. And they also have more expensive policies sold via their website or an agent, that can be transferred, and the higher price on those better policies is how they cover their losses.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Accountants = Actuaries? *hack* *cough* *gasp* *choke* The 2 different professions do have a number of unflattering jokes about the other.

    I sent this entire post and set of comments off to Mr. Jeanne_in_NE, FSA to ask his opinion. (FSA = Fellow of the Society of Actuaries) and will relay it when that opinion is available. I also have a degree in Actuarial Science, but haven’t worked insurance 15 years, so hate to offer an outdated opinion.

  • emanon256

    LOL, Sorry to offend :)

    I have a background in accounting, but haven’t really worked closely with actuaries other than on that one project, and they called themselves actuarial accountants. Maybe that was the company title?

    My opinion based on my accounting experience is that I worked with budgets, reporting, management of bunch of people and processes, and the most advanced math I did was near term projections, while actuaries work with numbers and variables at much more advanced level and basically predict the future. I think what they do is much harder than what I do. Though now all my work is to deign computer systems and on-line system. My career has completely migrated out of accounting and I do pretty much anything computer, though I do miss the accounting portion. Actually, what I miss the most is running and office and overseeing all the areas and their day to day operations. Especially crazy office like Parking departments.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    emanon256 and I were having a conversation on this post, where we were talking about why it doesn’t work for an insurance company to issue a policy that can be refunded if not used. I wondered how TravelGuard could prevent anti-selection by transferring premiums paid for one insured trip to a new policy for future travel, per Lindabator ‘s statement that TravelGuarad can do so. I said I would ask an actuary for his opinion. He said:

    “Actually, you could write a policy that refunds the premium upon a loss, by charging more to every one that doesn’t have a claim. Of course that would encourage some customer behavior as follows: Book the whole thing, buy insurance. If air fare or hotel prices go down, cancel and buy again. This would increase the claim cost per policy and make the company raise the premium, which would drive out those who don’t intend to do that, which would then drive the premiums up further until no one wanted it.

    LInda’s option is a better plan, because you don’t have quite anti-selection hazard, but it is still there to some extent. The no refund option works to get people to think (if they are in the habit of doing that) before they commit. That makes a claim to be likely to be due to a truly unforeseen circumstance, which should keep the premium affordable. One way to do the transfer option would be to claw back commissions to the agency. This would discourage gaming and provide some revenue for the transfer.”

  • LonnieC

    C’mon. You buy insurance. You’re past the cancellation date. You can’t cancel. Too bad. You’ve gotten the benefit of your bargain; that is, you had protection – if you needed it – for the time the insurance was in effect. If one could cancel and get a refund after the cutoff date, there would be nothing stopping anyone from asking for a refund – even after the trip was taken – if the insurance wasn’t needed. That’s just not the way insurance works.

  • Michael__K

    Let’s take a step back: why would someone buy travel insurance before any of their trip payments become non-refundable in the first place?

    I can think of mainly one rational reason to do so: to satisfy the requirements of the pre-existing (medical) condition exclusion waiver on a typical policy (which usually requires that you purchase the insurance within 15 or so days of the initial trip payment).

    It appears that this one rational motivation was completely absent in this case because the TravelGuard policy that Priceline currently offers (at least for most states) is notably missing TravelGuard’s usual language on pre-existing condition waivers:

    And, to boot, when I quote directly from TravelGuard, I can buy their Platinum (highest tier) insurance plan — with a pre-existing condition waiver — for a bit less than what Priceline charges for a policy with clearly inferior coverage.

    And Priceline automatically includes this insurance product when you try to book a cruise. If you want to buy insurance on your own, you have to proactively remove the insurance option and click through an ominous disclaimer / sales pitch.

    So while the points about adverse selection and higher premiums make sense in principle, I’m not sure they apply to the OP’s transaction with Priceline.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hi Michael – I was waiting for your comment! :)

    Actually, my husband and I were on a long walk and this article and the many comments were the topic of conversation for most of the walk. Your response came in mid-way through our walk (love my smartphone!), so we had a chance to discuss it pretty thoroughly. We’re going to assume as given that the information you presented is true. The major expense incurred by an inferior, higher-priced policy would be commission. Who gets commission on a travel policy? The agent – Priceline. So you can see why Priceline isn’t willing to budge on this one. Probably nothing left of the premium after underwriting expenses (minimal), issuing expenses, accounting expenses and that probably huge commission, so TravelGuard might not transfer the policy or apply it to future travel. (We don’t know that’s why it’s not transferable – that’s just well-informed conjecture on our part.)

    Lots of lessons to be learned by other consumers out there from this case, but the foremost lesson is to buy your travel insurance separately from your provider. When it comes to insurance, let’s face it, most people have no clue in the world what their policies cover and exclude, and I’m talking about the policies we encounter on a regular basis – auto, home, life. Travel insurance is a once-in-a-great-while thing for most people. I think a real, live, human being would have been a better resource than an OTA like Priceline. Or even that series of articles Chris Elliott wrote a while back on how to buy travel insurance.

  • Sasha

    I’ve carried full coverage insurance on my home for many years and have never made a claim, do you think I should get a refund? After all, I’ve never used it…

  • Michael__K

    I understand Priceline’s incentive to keep it’s commissions — but that applies no less to the cruise itself than to the insurance.

    If Priceline wants, they can impose cancellation fees to recoup their commissions and/or administrative costs. But (IMO) they must disclose any such fees BEFORE purchase. I see no such disclosures on today before credit card information is required.

    I also noticed something else: Travel Guard posts the following satisfaction guarantee on its home page and this language is also included in all the policies it sells directly:

    If you are not completely satisfied, you can receive a refund of the cost, minus the service fee. Requests must be submitted to Travel Guard in writing within 15 days of the effective date of the coverage, provided it is not past the original departure date.

    Yet this satisfaction guarantee is notably missing from the TravelGuard policy that Priceline sells(!)

    Which suggests to me that TravelGuard’s satisfaction guarantee did not even exist for the OP’s policy. And if this was not affirmatively disclosed until after she already paid, then that strikes me as horribly unfair and highly worthy of Chris’ involvement to mediate.

  • Michael__K

    She was beyond the insurance refund window

    Actually, it doesn’t appear there was ANY refund window whatsoever here.

    TravelGuard has the following satisfaction guarantee (“refund window”) posted on it’s own home page — which normally also appears in the policies it sells on it’s own website:

    “If you are not completely satisfied, you can receive a refund of the cost, minus the service fee. Requests must be submitted to Travel Guard in writing within 15 days of the effective date of the coverage, provided it is not past the original departure date.”

    This guarantee is absent from the TravelGuard policy Priceline sells:

    Yet Priceline provides no affirmative disclosure that the insurance premium is completely non-refundable (with no refund window) before it requires your credit card number for payment.

  • Michael__K

    The “free-look” period apparently does not exist at all for the TravelGuard policy that Priceline sells with its cruises.

    Here is the policy:

    Unlike the policies TravelGuard sells directly, this policy is missing TravelGuard’s satisfaction (“free look”) guarantee language, which also appears on TravelGuard’s home page:

    If you are not completely satisfied, you can receive a refund of the cost, minus the service fee. Requests must be submitted to Travel Guard in writing within 15 days of the effective date of the coverage, provided it is not past the original departure date.

  • Michael__K

    So if this person developed a serious medical condition that required them to cancel when in full penalty, the insurance would have covered her.

    That is false in this case. The TravelGuard policy that Priceline sells does not include TravelGuard’s pre-existing condition waiver language. So there was no rational reason for her to buy insurance within 15 days of trip payment and before her trip costs became non-refundable.

    The TravelGuard policy that Priceline sells is also missing TravelGuard’s satisfaction guarantee language. So there was apparently no “free look” time frame whatsoever. And Priceline does not affirmatively disclose that the insurance is non-refundable from the moment of payment before it requires a credit card for payment.