An Ohio man's dissatisfaction with his treatment by the travel Web site Expedia, has, in the words of Ron Burgandy, "'escalated really quickly."' So now Expedia is looking at a class action over damages ranging from a high of $1. 33 to a low of $. 13. And yes, I have the decimal points in the right place.
Here's the back story, according to the court:
In April 2014. Jeffery Weidenhamer visited the Expedia Web site to purchase airfares for his family of four. He could not complete the purchases on the Web site. A pop-up window appeared w ith this message :
It looks like we have an issue with the site. We re work ing to fix this as soon as possible. Here are some ways to find your perfect trip in the meantime: Download the Award-Winning Expedia App: Our app may be available even if the site is not. With it, you ·can book flights and hotels or check all your Expedia itineraries from anywhere· The app won the People's Voice Webby Award and we think you'll like it too. To say thank you for your patience, we"ll also give you 5% OFF YOUR APP' PURCHASE with the code MOBILEGO.
Mr. Weidenharner did as the pop-up window suggested. He downloaded the app to his tablet computer and purchased four tickets. But he didn't receive a 5% discount
Mr. Weidenhamer paid $398.30 for each of his tickets , for a total of $1593.20. But when the app displayed his fares for purchase, it advised him that the airline '"may" charge a fee for checked baggage. When he clic ked on a hyerlink for "additional fees ,'" Expedia informed him that the airline he chose would not charge for each passenger's first checked bag. But when Mr. Weidenhamer arrived at the airport, however, the airline informed him fees applied to his family's first checked bags. Mr. Weidenharner and his family paid about $650 for their first checked bags.
In May 2014 , Mr. Weidenharner complained to Expedia. He demanded a credit equivalent to 5% of his family's total airfare, to account for the discount he did not receive, changes to the Expedia Web site to correctly disclose when fares do not include baggage fees and a credit for $&50 to aceount for the· baggage fees Expedia did not disclose.
Expedia refused all of Mr. Weidenhamer's requests . It informed Mr. Weidenharner the 5% discount it had promoted did not apply to multiple-ticket purchases like the one he made. But it said nothing about his requests for chang·es to the Web site , documentation of those changes , or a credit to account for the baggage charges.
Mr.Weidenhamer contacted the Ohio Attorney General to relay his complaints about Expedia. When the Attorney General contacted Expedia to inquire about the dispute, Expedia chose to refund $79.66 (5% of the total that Mr. Weidenhamer paid to Expedia) to Mr. Weidenhamer's credit card. Expedia did nothing to respond to Mr. Weidenhamer's request for changes to the website , documentation of the changes , or his request for a refund of the baggage fees he paid.
Mr.Weidenharner sued Expedia in a federal court in its horne state of Washingtan. His law suit sought damages not only on his own behalf, but damages and injunctive relief on behalf of a nationwide class of Expedia customers.
Expedia filed a motion to dis miss, arguing Mr. Weidenhamer lacked "'standingito bring the lawsuit, since he suffered no damages, given Expedia's grudging refund. Article Ill of the Constitution requires a party suffer an injury to have "'standing" to sue. Weidenhamer argued that given Expedia's delay in granting the refund, he'd lost the interest he could have otherwise earned on the money. Expedia urged the court to dismiss, given the amount at is sue was "'de minimus."'
And while the court agreed that the damages were inconsequential ($1.33 using a 10% interest rate, and $.13 using a 1% rate) it could find no legal justification to impose 31 minimum damages rule. It also noted that Weidenhamer's claim that Expedia was unjustly enriched - it got his business under false· pretenses - and his claim for injunctive relief also conferred standing. The court denie d Expedia's motion, and the case may proceed to the class certificat ion stage. That is not 'good news for Expedia.
But the lesson is clear. Lousy customer service can cost a business in all kinds of ways. And while· mo·st dis satisfied customers won't "'make 31 federal case"' of it, the ones who do might just win!