SEATTLE (CN) - A class action accused Expedia of lowballing luggage fees for airline tickets, and of using a deceptive pop-up add to offer a bogus discount through an Expedia mobile app.
Lead plaintiff Jeffrey D. Weidenhamer sued Expedia in King County Court, alleging consumer law violations, unjust enrichment and violation of the Washington Sellers of Travel Act.
Weidenhamer claims he had to pay $650 in baggage fees because Expedia falsely promised one free checked bag with online airfare purchases, and claims it failed to give mobile application users the 5 percent discount it promised in its pop-up ad.
"More specifically, this action concerns defendant's false statements concerning air fares, including those about applicable fees for airfare purchasers' first checked baggage - namely, that statements during online airfare purchases that baggage fees were lower than they actually were," the lawsuit states.
"In addition, it concerns defendant's misleading pop-up statements when it encounters difficulties with its United States website functionality:
"'It looks like we have an issue with the site. We're working to fix this as soon as possible. Here are some ways to find your perfect trip in the meantime: Download the Award-Winning Expedia App: Our app may be available even if the site is not. With it, you can book flights and hotels or check all your Expedia itineraries from anywhere. The app won the People's Voice Webby Award and we think you'll like it too. To say thank you for your patience, we'll also give you 5% OFF YOUR APP PURCHASE with the code MOBILEGO.'
"Although the pop-up statements indicate consumers can book flights using
Expedia App while defendant had 'an issue with the site' and receive a 5% discount off their purchase, that statement is in fact false."
Weidenhamer claims that says Expedia's website states that airlines "may" charge a fee for checked baggage, but when he clicked the hyperlink provided, it clearly said his carrier charged "no fee" for the first checked bag.
Weidenhamer says he was at the airport when he learned that contrary to Expedia's representations, he was being charged an extra $650 for baggage.
"Upon arrival with his family at the airport, plaintiff learned that, contrary to defendant's representation that there was no additional fee for first check baggage, in fact there were significant additional round trip charges totaling approximately $650 for the first checked baggage. These additional and previously undisclosed fees increased the total airfare by approximately 41% (from $1,593.20 to approximately $2,243.20)," according to the complaint.
"Defendant's Internet airfare statements and omissions were likely to mislead and did mislead plaintiff and other reasonable consumers, because they made a significant difference in their online airfare purchase decisions."
Weidenhamer says he never got his promised discount for buying tickets though an app on his iPad.
"Thus, defendant's airfare advertising statements were false or misleading. Such statements were material to reasonable consumers (and therefore likely to mislead them) because (a) they would consider full fare advertising important to their airfare purchase decisions, and (b) they would consider the Expedia App and its 5% discount enticement important to their decisions on whether they would attempt to overcome difficulties with Expedia's U.S. website by downloading and using the app or, instead, migrate to another online travel competitor," according to the lawsuit.
Weidenhamer says his complaints to Expedia "fell on deaf ears" and the company refused any sort of refund until the Ohio Attorney General's Office intervened.
Expedia then gave Weidenhamer a "one time courtesy refund" of 5 percent but did not reimburse him for the baggage fees.
"Expedia also stated that it disclosed during plaintiff's booking process that there may be baggage fees and that it 'provides baggage information ... as listed by our airline partners' and 'generally the baggage fees that apply to the entire trip are based on the marketing carrier's first leg (not operating carrier)'. Notably, Expedia did not address the fact that its 'additional fees' hyperlink opened the baggage fee web page clearly stating for the operating carrier that there would be 'No fee' for a first checked bag," the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
The class includes customers who purchased Expedia online airfares on the Web or using a mobile app from July 2012 to the present and were charged higher baggage fees than represented and/or were denied the promised 5 percent discount.
Weidenhamer seeks refunds, actual, incidental, consequential, exemplary and/or statutory damages, civil penalties and injunctive relief.
He is represented by Duncan Turner of Badgley Mullins Turner in Shoreline, Wash.