Q: I booked a trip to Tallinn, Estonia, earlier this year through Otel.com. I prepaid $919 for a refundable room at the Three Sisters Hotel. I couldn’t make the trip because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Otel agreed to contact the hotel and let me know their response. After a few weeks, I contacted the hotel to ask about my refund. A representative said they had not received any payment from Otel.com. They fully supported my request for a refund.
I contacted Otel.com and asked for a refund again. I received an e-mail from Otel.com indicating the refund had been issued. The company said it would take 15 business days for me to receive my full refund. A month later, I still didn’t have my refund, so I initiated a credit card dispute.
My bank denied the chargeback, saying that Otel.com had no refund policy. However, I have written evidence that Otel.com conceded its refund policy was dependent on the hotel and the hotel agreed with my request for a refund.
I would like a refund or a credit from Otel.com for $919. Can you help?
A: I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble getting your hotel refund during the pandemic. It should be a simple and fast process, but as you — and hundreds of thousands of other travelers — are finding out, it’s anything but that.
Getting a hotel refund during the pandemic can be complicated. Your situation was even more complicated because there was a third party: your online travel agency. Otel.com’s terms and conditions suggest that its hotels have different refund policies. Some charge you upfront for the full amount, while others bill you when you show up. But Otel.com doesn’t say whose refund policy is more important — the hotel’s or its own.
You did a great job keeping track of the paperwork. You had written evidence of the hotel’s initial refund policy and of its willingness to refund you. By the way, offering you a refund was the correct and compassionate thing of the hotel to do. You were scheduled to fly to Tallinn in March, right after the pandemic shutdown. A visit was impossible.
But Otel.com promised you a refund and failed to follow through. The reason is obvious to me: The agency must have been overrun with refund requests. A refund within 15 business days was totally unrealistic.
The problem was your credit card company. Why didn’t it side with you? I assume that it, too, was swamped with other chargeback requests and didn’t have the time to review your request. If it had, you would have received every penny back.
I contacted Otel.com. A representative agreed to the $919 credit.