The company has declined to be drawn on why its Kulula customers weren’t being refunded for their cancelled tickets.
Is there any recourse for flyers?
Asked to comment on whether Kulula’s no-refunds policy was legally justified, the office of the ombudsman for consumer goods and services said it was not ready to release a statement but pointed TimesLIVE to section 47 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
That section, headed “Over-selling and over-booking”, states that if a company commits to supply services on a specified date and fails to do so, or supply “similar or comparable goods or services”, it must refund the consumer, with interest, plus any costs “directly incidental to their breach of the contract”.
A company can avoid refunds if its failure to supply a service was due to circumstances “beyond its control’’, but not if that failure was a result of its failure — directly or indirectly — “to adequately and diligently carry out any ordinary or routine matter pertaining to the supplier’s business”.
Asked to weigh in on the issue, the National Consumer Commission said it was still engaging with Comair and the CAA.
“In terms of section 95 of the CPA, the commission must engage with the regulator (in this case the Civil Aviation Authority) when it identifies practices that are inconsistent with the CPA,” said the NCC’s media liaison officer Phetho Ntaba.
But she said, “S47 does not apply to this matter as this does not concern overbooking or selling”.
How to get a refund via credit card bookings
Consumers do have another way of getting their money back when an airline cancels a flight and doesn’t provide an appropriate alternative — provided they paid with a credit card.
They can approach the bank which issued their credit card, provide proof of the non-delivery and lodge a chargeback dispute, in terms of which their bank approaches the service provider’s bank to recall the funds.
Time limits do apply, and they differ from bank to bank.
Fuelling the demand for refunds from Comair is that alternative tickets have come at a hefty price on competitor airlines.
SAA, Flysafair and Lift have denied accusations that they exploited the situation by hiking their prices, saying the last-sold seats on any flight were always the most expensive.
CONTACT WENDY: E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.