Pretoria - In a recent ConsumerWatch column, I exposed the fact that on its website, SAA’s budget airline Mango pre-ticks its travel insurance add-on as a default.
In other words, if a user of the site doesn’t want the extra charge, they have to actively un-tick the box, which is a form of negative option marketing, and falls foul of the Consumer Protection Act.
The pre-ticked option remains on the Mango site, by the way.
Durban law professor Tanya Woker has since contacted Consumer Watch about a similar experience her 19-year-old daughter had when using online travel agency Travelstart to book flights to Cape Town with Mango.
Apart from Travelstart’s fee of R250 being added to the total cost of the transaction, there was an amount of R357 for travel insurance, which Woker’s daughter did not authorise.
Woker assumed it was another sneaky pre-ticked add-on, and took great exception to the lack of disclosure. Her bank, Standard Bank, denied knowledge of the fee and told her to query it with Travelstart.
But Travelstart said they hadn’t levied the charge either.
Finally it emerged that it was indeed the bank which debited Woker’s account, and that such charges are automatically added when credit cards are used to make international flight bookings.
But Woker knew nothing of that, and in any event, her daughter had made a domestic flight booking.
Responding, Standard Bank told Consumer Watch that the R357 was “a premium levied for top-up travel insurance”.
“It has been packaged together exclusively for frequent flyers, also known as a mandate,” a bank spokesman said.
“The mandate is automatically triggered on travel-related purchases over R4 000.
“Where we have incorrectly charged the premium, as in Professor Woker’s case, we refund it.
“We undertake to revisit this rule to avoid such recurrences in the future.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused through this process as well as any incorrect information that was disclosed to Professor Woker through our call centre.”
Woker said she’d been an SAA frequent flyer for more than 10 years. “Maybe this was something which was imposed on us years ago – I’d like to see some documentation.
“Given the Consumer Protection Act, this policy should have been reviewed and people should have been asked whether they still wanted it or not. When I travel overseas I always take out travel insurance anyway.”
Standard Bank hasn’t responded to my further queries about the history of that premium, but if you’re a Standard Bank customer and an SAA frequent flyer, you may want to make some enquiries.