Quite an o’versight: Aer Lingus app doesn’t recognise apostrophes

Which is a bit problematic when it comes to Irish surnames

Appsolutely not fabulous: Aer Lingus’s smartphone app doesn’t like apostrophes

Appsolutely not fabulous: Aer Lingus’s smartphone app doesn’t like apostrophes

 

A couple of weeks back, Finola O’Riordan was trying to book two seats on a flight from Malaga to Dublin on the Aer Lingus app on her phone but came up against a problem every time she entered details of her credit card. “I tried my husband’s credit card but came up against the same problem – the site would not accept our surname,” she writes.

“The seats were priced at €131 each. I telephoned the helpline and got a very helpful man called Conor, who said he could see the seats were available at €131 and that he would try to book the flight for us. He put me on hold while he sorted it out.” However, when he came back to her he had only begun to explain the situation when he was cut off.

O’Riordan immediately phoned back and got a different person. “I explained the issue once again and he offered to book the flight for us, but the price had now gone up to €208. He said there was nothing he could do about the price. I feel this is very unfair,” she says.

“The fault is totally with the Aer Lingus app, which we eventually found out is because it will not accept an apostrophe in the surname! Given how many Irish names have apostrophes, surely this is a basic error that Aer Lingus should have rectified by now? Also, peculiar as it may seem, we were eventually able to book our flight by leaving out the apostrophe when asked for our surname on our credit card (even though there is an apostrophe on the card). But we had to book our flights for a day earlier than we had wanted in order to get the original price of €131. Not good enough, Aer Lingus.”

We contacted the airline and a spokeswoman confirmed that there was an issue on the app with names with apostrophes. “The issue can be overcome by inputting the name without the apostrophe symbol,” she said. “A technical solution is being worked on and we expect this to be in place in the coming weeks. We appreciate the inconvenience caused to [our reader] and would be happy to amend her booking without charge to fly out on the preferred later date.”

An unusual car rental problem

A reader called Rosemary contacted us with a troubling story. Last year she hired a car in Sicily. “After searching online, I found the best deal was with a car rental broker called Atlas Choice Car Rentals, based in London,” she says.

She paid about €300 for the car, and once it had been processed she was directed to a link on the Atlas Choice website that gave her the details of the car rental company in Sicily that she was to collect the car from. The name of the company was Locauto Rent. When she arrived in Sicily “all went swimmingly – the car was picked up from Locauto and returned a week later without any hassle”.

So far so good. A couple of weeks ago, almost exactly seven months after she hired the car, she got an email from Locauto Rent telling her that because Atlas Choice was in receivership, she was liable for the cost of the car hire. “Upon checking my bank account today, I discovered that the amount of €262.99 has been charged to my credit card. I am left wondering: are they allowed to do this?”

We had a look at the terms and conditions of the car hire agreement and it says that there is “several and joint liability” between the issuer of the voucher and the person who rents the car, so if the broker fails to pay the provider, the person who rents the car is responsible for the payment.

Locauto Rent says the seven-month gap between the rental and the subsequent charge “is due to the fact that before taking any action, we have exhausted all attempts to recover the amount [from] Atlas Choice” adding that it was only in December that it “received communication, which states that Atlas choice had entered into default state”.

We contacted the European Consumer Centre. A spokeswoman said the “very extensive timeframe here is most unusual and could cause problems”.

Someone who paid Atlas in the last 120 days could get their money back from their credit card company using the chargeback process, but the deadline for our reader has passed.

When it comes to the second charge, “in the absence of any other statement in the terms and conditions, the clause ‘several and joint liability’ amounts to a consumer authorisation of indefinite duration to charge her card.

She could try to seek chargeback on the second charge on the basis of late presentment. The ECC also says that is she “feels that she was not made fully aware of the clause, she could argue that it contravenes the Unfair Commercial Practises Directive 2005/19/EC – requirements relating to misleading commercial practices. Of particular note is the prohibition in this Directive of providing material information in an unclear or unintelligible manner. Other options include the courts, Alternative Dispute Resolution, or even the competent data protection authority, should the consumer believe the car rental companies have retained their data (ie their credit or debit card) for longer than is necessary.”

Know your statutory rights. Cough.

Last week we ran an item on the signs you might see and what they might mean. The first one we featured was an explanation of the sign “Strictly no refunds on sale items”. We pointed out that signs of this nature are against the law and added that “the only exception is when the sign adds the postscript ‘This does not affect your statutory rights’. If that phrase appears on the sign, the retailer is in the clear and you have no right to go looking for a refund or an exchange.” Unfortunately we omitted the clarifying phrase “unless there is something wrong with the product, in which case you are still protected by the law”.

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