Vancouver traveller finds out hard way that terms and conditions are a contract

© Provided by Vancouver Sun A Sunwing plane sits at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) as four of Canada's major airlines have suspended service to Mexico and the Caribbean , in Richmond on January 31, 2021.

A Vancouver man who thought he had properly cancelled a couple of hotel rooms through an online booking site was denied a refund because he sent the cancellation request to the wrong email address. considered him a no-show and billed David McEwen more than $3,000 for the two rooms in Jamaica for five days in March.

McEwen sued for the $3,146.60 it charged to his credit card, even though he felt he had properly cancelled on time, according to a decision by tribunal member Eric Regehr of B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal .

Regehr wrote that the booking agency’s cancellation policy was “reasonable” and appeared prominently on the booking page.

But McEwen said the policy wasn’t clear and it wasn’t possible to reach the company by phone, so he cancelled by replying to the confirmation email, the last correspondence he received for his booking.

He argued had a duty to monitor that website and he wanted the company to return his money.

McEwen had booked the two rooms online on Dec. 7, 2019, for five nights, starting March 15, 2020.

On March 12, Canada announced a ban on non-essential international travel after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and he cancelled.

His deadline to cancel was March 13, 2020, and he believed he did his part to alert the company he was cancelling the booking. He requested a confirmation of the cancellation but didn’t receive one, Regehr wrote.

In its written submissions to the tribunal, said its terms and conditions form part of the contract with its customers, and that document states cancellations must be made by phone or by logging on to the site and clicking on the “manage your booking” link.

It said its website on its booking page include the statement: “by clicking book, you agree you have read and accept our terms and conditions.” It included a screenshot of its booking page from January 2021, which it said hadn’t changed from December 2019.

But McEwen said he recalled the booking page differently. He didn’t have a screenshot of the booking page from 2019 and Regehr accepted’s evidence that the terms and conditions button was included on the booking page.

“ argues that the terms and conditions set out the only two ways that a customer can cancel a reservation,” he wrote. ”Because Mr. McEwen attempted to cancel the reservation in an unauthorized way, he did not cancel the reservation in accordance with the parties’ contract, so he is not entitled to a refund.”

“I find that the reference to the terms and conditions was prominently displayed on the final booking page,” he wrote. “Mr. McEwen did not read the terms and conditions, but I find he was still bound by them.”

McEwen argued “must honour his cancellation email” because it was up to the company to monitor its emails, Regehr wrote. But Regehr disagreed. “ was under no contractual obligation to monitor for cancellations,” he wrote.

Regehr also wrote that McEwen didn’t provide details about his attempts to get through by phone for him to determine whether or not that was a hindrance to reaching a representative by phone. He also noted that McEwen cancelled at 10 p.m. on March 12 and had until 2 p.m. March 13 to cancel before incurring any fees.

McEwen didn’t want to comment for the article. A spokeswoman didn’t return an email requesting comment.