Q: Peter, in attempting to rent a car from Priceline, I exited the site before completing the transaction. But now they are insisting that I have rented that car, and they will not cancel the reservation. I tried to get a refund from them, but they said that I made a valid reservation and did not cancel before completing it. What recourse do I have? At the moment, I have two reservations for the same travel period with separate companies, and I badly need to cancel the Priceline one, which I rejected in the first place because it was too expensive. They have me over a barrel because they have my credit card information from a prior reservation, even though I never completed this one. Should I dispute the charges with my credit card company?
–Janet, Gettysburg, Pa.
A: Ordinarily, Priceline is steadfast in refusing to refund money because its no-cancel and no-change policy is what allows it to negotiate discounts of up to 40 percent with suppliers and pass them on to customers. However, if you truly made an honest mistake, I'd like to think that you'd be eligible for some sort of a refund. So I called them to inquire, gave them your transaction number, and told them your story.
However, Priceline came back to me with a very different version of events from yours. The company searched its transaction database and provided evidence that you did not in fact cancel the transaction nor close the browser before it was complete.
In a message to me, the customer-service representative said: "According to our records, [she] completed this booking and reviewed it after it was complete. She initialed a contract page and instructed us to make the rental car booking on her behalf. After the booking was completed, our records indicate that the offer-acceptance page was presented to her, then she opted to view the printer-friendly itinerary page." The rep provided screen shots that support Priceline's side of the story.
It's hard to argue with a computer database that seems to have saved virtually every keystroke you've made and appears to indicate that you saw the transaction through to the very end. With this in mind, Priceline was not willing to offer you any type of refund.
In cases such as this, you do indeed have the option to take the dispute to your credit card company and try to get the charges reversed. Another option would be to try to sue the company in small-claims court.
After following up with you, I learned that you decided to pursue a refund with your credit card company. They sided with you and credited you back $231.63.