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Careful, you might be flying blind with that air ticket



Careful, you might be flying blind with that air ticket

Mistakes are very easy to make, not so quick to fix

Consumer journalist

For many of us the first online purchase we made was for airline tickets. Being able to do it on your home computer in your PJs in the middle of the night was mindblowingly liberating. Still is. But it does require us to pay attention while we’re paying those fares.
I’ve taken up all manner of “finger trouble” cases in recent years – the man who entered his surname as his first name as well; women who entered their married names while their ID document still reflected their maiden name; and many who’ve booked the wrong month. February/March (where the dates and days are an exact match) and June/July (because they look so similar) are fairly common mix-ups.
Most airlines will allow consumers to change finger trouble bookings within 24 hours with little to no penalty; after that more punishing penalties apply.When John Chapman sat down at his computer in March to book three return tickets from Cape Town to Bologna, Italy, with Turkish Airlines, he thought he was getting a very good deal indeed: a total of just under R20,000 for all three tickets reflected, so he confirmed and paid. But the amount which was debited to his credit card statement was more than three times that: R64,700.
That’s when his mistake became apparent. The Turkish Airlines international site has the US dollar as its default currency, but allows consumers to select from an array of other currencies. Chapman spotted SAR among the options at the start of his fare search, assuming it was SA Rand, when in fact it’s Saudi Riyal.
When he called the airline to explain what had happened, he was told that he’d chosen the currency himself and as such he could cancel for a refund, but with the usual hefty penalties.I took up the case with the airline, having spent some time on the Turkish Airlines site.
Firstly, I asked, why is there is no ZAR (South African Rand) in the currency option list, given that South Africa is clearly a significant market for the airline?
And why isn’t there a warning that it is Saudi Riyal when a user – especially one whose browser identifies them as South African – clicks on SAR as a currency option?
Ebru Kaasakiz, the airline’s Cape Town-based sales and operations manager, said the airline had withdrawn the rand as a currency option on its site because of its “extreme fluctuations”.
“Although we make the assumption that the currency options are quite clear, especially on the last page before confirming and accepting the terms and conditions, we will communicate with our head office and the people responsible for our website to investigate options that will give a much clearer indication to the client which currency they have selected, and we certainly take on board your suggestion of a warning regarding the currency selected,” he said.
“We are also disappointed that the matter regarding the Chapmans was not managed professionally and efficiently and offer our apologies for this.”
Then came the really good bit: “We will arrange a full and prompt refund with our assurances that the matter is being addressed so that our clients don’t have a repeat of the frustrating events that occurred.”
Excellent. I’m sure Chapman isn’t the only South African to have made that mistake on that site.Service providers ‘vat’ a chanceThe first VAT increase in 25 years is still playing havoc with pricing, in all sorts of ways. 
Frances Hanekom wrote: “We sold our house in Cape Town in January when VAT was still at 14%. The buyers of our property sold at exactly the same time and the transfers went through at the same time, April 18, when VAT had gone up to 15%. Our agent charged us 15% VAT on their commission, while our buyers were charged 14% by another agency.“In our case the difference is only about R1,700 but it is strange that depending on which agency you were dealing with in January if your transfer went through after April 1 you can be charged at different rates for VAT.
“One would imagine that if the sale was signed in January that would be the rate at which you would be charged VAT?”
According to Wright Rose-Innes Attorneys, she’s right: “VAT becomes applicable upon the supply of goods or services. Where an estate agent performed services during a period beginning and ending before April 1 2018, they are entitled to payment for services rendered at the VAT rate of 14%, regardless when the invoice was issued, both contractually and by operation of law.”
So I’ve advised Hanekom to ask for a refund of that R1,700 and keep me posted.CONTACT WENDY
E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za
Twitter: @wendyknowler

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