At the beginning of February I booked two very cheap tickets home to Cape Town for the weekend of the Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour which I was set to ride. I happened to book them with Velvet Sky. I hadn’t previously flown with them, but people I had spoken said they were as good as the other low-cost airlines, and the tickets were about half the cost of the next best offer.
At the end of February newspaper reports started coming out about Velvet Sky being in a bit of trouble. Some flights were being cancelled, but then they seemed to get going again, before halting flights once more. Apparently they’ve been having a bit of financial difficulties, but they kept on assuring passengers that they’d be up and running soon. So it wasn’t till the week preceding the Argus that I get an e-mail from Velvet Sky stating that my flights have been cancelled.
They attached forms where you could apply for refunds, and I immediately filled them in and sent them back to Velvet Sky. I got tickets with another carrier and enjoyed my weekend. A few weeks later I hadn’t heard anything from Velvet Sky. So I sent them an email as they had indicated that one could expect a refund within the next month. The response I got stated that all there bank accounts were frozen, and that as soon as the court proceedings they were busy with were completed, payouts would commence. Another month later still no news.
Some time in April, Computicket refunded several million Rands worth of tickets to passengers whose flights were cancelled and had booked their flights through Computicket. I had unfortunately bought my ticket direct from Velvet Sky. But there was hope.
I had read in a few newspaper articles where reporters suggested attempting a “Chargeback” process on the transaction. I’m not fully sure what it’s all about, but it boils down to that all transactions made with a credit card have the ability to be reversed if one can prove that you did not receive the product/service that you paid for. It has something to do with the new Consumer Protection Act.
I’m not going to bore you with all the details of my dealings with Absa trying to get this right, I’m just going to post the necessary data. This is the statement I got from Absa, and apparently all the banks are sticking with it.
We refer to the recent news broadcasts and speculation pertaining to Velvet Sky.
Local banks have raised their concerns regarding cardholder rights pertaining to chargebacks. Internal discussions were held and Nedbank have come to the following conclusion: Velvet sky is still in operation, as no liquidation proceedings have taken place at this stage. Should the issuers feel the need to raise chargebacks for services not rendered they will be required to supply all of the following documentation to validate the chargebacks raised.
The documentation must consist of the following:
• A cardholder letter.
• Proof that the cardholder attempted to obtain a refund from the merchant but failed (a reference number for the call or an email from Velvet Sky confirming a request for refund submitted).
• Ticket or booking confirmation of the scheduled flight that supposedly did not take place.
Please take note of the following :
• Chargebacks may only be raised after the expected date of service has lapsed.
• Return flights: only a partial amount will be accepted for the leg of the flight which did not take place.
If all of the above conditions have not been met, Nedbank will re-present the chargeback as invalid supporting documentation supplied. Each case will be reviewed to validate whether it meets all of the above requirements.
I was slightly worried because I didn’t have any proof that Velvet Sky actually received my specific forms. I assumed they did, because I e-mailed them, but they did not reply or give any reference numbers. So I decided to just give them everything I had.
I created a folder dedicated to this process. I wrote out a full letter explaining when I purchased the cards, when I received cancellation emails, when I applied for refunds, everything I had that involved communication with them I listed. I also attached pdfs of every e-mail I sent them and every form I had filled in. I also mentioned occasions when I had phoned Velvet Sky.
Last week Friday after several backwards and forwards emails, I had compiled all this data and sent it in to firstname.lastname@example.org (the official e-mail for card disputes). Today (4 working days later) I got an e-mail from Absa saying that I had been refunded the full amount.
They do note however that
the merchant bank has 60 days (local merchant) and 45 days (international merchant) to respond.
If the merchant bank presents the transaction and provides us with the necessary documents, your account will be debited with the amount concerned. In event of the above, we will let you know and provide you with the documents concerned.
Velvet Sky didn’t give me the service, and haven’t paid me a refund, so I don’t see how this will happen.
So in the end I got my money back :) I was adequately satisfied with the e-mail communication with Absa, and will admit that I was quite surprised that I got my chargeback so soon after applying for it. Note that you must apply for an Absa charge back within 120 days of the failed service. Other banks may have shorter or longer periods.