Johannesburg - It’s one of my pet hates – online sites which “pre-select” add-ons.

It’s a form of negative option marketing, which is outlawed by the Consumer Protection Act.

“A supplier must not… induce a person to accept any goods or services or to modify such an agreement on the basis that the modification will automatically come into existence unless the consumer declines such offer…”

In other words you shouldn’t have to actively decline a product or service – in this case, by un-ticking a box – failing which you are charged for it.

Osman Mollagee wrote to Consumer Watch, complaining about the “the sneaky and unacceptable way that Mango airline’s website booking system operates to trick people into paying for travel insurance”.

He’s was especially angry that despite the fact that he noticed the pre-selection of the R50 insurance when making a booking online earlier this month – the box was already ticked, so he had to un-tick it – he was still charged for insurance.

That’s because as he was about to enter his credit card details on the booking page, he noticed that he had made a spelling mistake on his daughter’s name.

“So all I did was correct that ‘name’ field on the website, which is a completely different field from the ‘Extras’ field.

“I did not click ‘back’, or anything like that, on the web page. But unbeknown to me, the website actually just automatically went back to the default ‘yes’ on the travel insurance, and I only picked this up after I already paid.

“Is this just bad programming by Mango’s software people, or a deliberate con?”

I took up the issue with Mango spokesman Hein Kaiser.

His response: “We have tested the system and during the normal booking process, the insurance option is not ticked; it is completely opt-in and thus guests are not automatically charged for insurance.

“However, when traveller details are edited later by the user, it seems that the system defaulted to acceptance of insurance. We have addressed this immediately and it has been resolved.

“I have requested a refund process to be actioned for Mr Mollagee and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.”

Mollagee disputed the claim that the insurance option was not the pre-selected default.

“I distinctly remember having to specifically opt out when I went through the process the first time.

“There is no doubt in my mind about that.

“I was so proud of myself for having spotted the default opt in, so I was irritated at having been caught out through the back door afterwards.

“Please can I ask you to try this yourself.”

So I did. And he was right. The R50 insurance is pre-selected, with the words: “This option is PRE-SELECTED for all Guests who travel with Mango Airlines. If you DON’T want to purchase Mango travel insurance you can remove it by selecting ‘No’.”

One has to wonder what “system” the Mango team were testing.

Naturally, I went back to Kaiser to comment.

He said he’d “triple check” and get back to me. That was last Monday, and by the time of going to press he hadn’t, and the insurance add-on remained the default, pre-selected option on the airline’s booking site.

Not good.

The Star