Mishka was moving overseas. Before leaving she paid for two weeks accommodation, using her credit card, for herself and her dogs at a ‘dog friendly’ hotel. After one week at the hotel it became apparent that the hotel was not suitable for dogs and Mishka moved out.
When the hotel charged Mishka for two weeks accommodation, Mishka contacted her credit card provider and, at the end of the conversation, understood half the transaction would be reversed. When Mishka saw the reversal on her credit card statement, her understanding was confirmed.
A couple of months later, Mishka noticed that the transaction had been redebited to her account and contacted her credit card provider. The credit card provider said that Mishka needed to provide more information and as she had not done so, it had redebited the transaction. The credit card provider went on to say Mishka was now out of time to dispute the transaction.
Mishka did not accept the credit card provider’s response and complained to FSCL.
Mishka said the credit card provider told her the transaction would be reversed and the reversal appeared on her credit card statement. As she was now out of time to dispute the transaction, Mishka considered the credit card provider had cost her one week’s accommodation, which was $900.
The credit card provider said that Mishka had been told that it had accepted the transaction was disputed and had asked Mishka to provide more information, both in the telephone conversation and in a letter sent to Mishka’s New Zealand address.
Mishka did not accept the credit card provider’s recollection of the telephone conversation and could not understand why the credit card provider had posted a letter to her New Zealand address. Mishka said that, in the same conversation, she had told the credit card provider she was now living overseas.
Fortunately, we were able to listen to Mishka’s telephone conversation. The credit card provider’s staff member had told Mishka that she was processing a disputed transaction, for half the hotel costs, and asked Mishka to email proof of the disputed transaction to the credit card provider to allow it to investigate the transaction further.
Mishka also advised that she was no longer in New Zealand. The staff member told Mishka that she should transfer her credit card to her new country if she was planning to stay.
The credit card provider also supplied copies of correspondence to Mishka’s New Zealand address advising, that as Mishka had not formally advised a new address, it was reasonable to send mail to New Zealand.
Mishka agreed that she had not formally changed her address, but she had given the credit card provider a new telephone number that would reach her overseas and the credit card provider also had her email address.
We explained to Mishka that we were unable to uphold her complaint. We considered the advice in the telephone conversation could have been more consumer friendly, but was adequate to allow Mishka to understand that she needed to provide more information. It was also Mishka’s responsibility to update her address, so it was not unreasonable for the credit card provider to write to her at an old address.
We also noted that the transaction reversal was far from certain. Although Mishka disputed the transaction, the credit card provider needed to consider the hotel’s perspective, that she was obliged to pay for accommodation she had booked. It could be that even if Mishka had provided the requested information, the reversal would not be accepted by the credit card provider.
Mishka did not agree with our view, but did not provide any new information that could allow us to reach a different decision.
Insights for participants
However, we saw this as an opportunity for the credit card provider to review how it communicates with customers. Communication breakdown sits at the heart of many of the complaints we see. We encouraged the credit card provider to review the advice given to customers wanting to dispute transactions and to be more proactive when staff discover an address may have changed.
We also noted that while the credit card provider prefers communication by post, many of their customers may find telephone or email communication more convenient.