A Northern Ireland woman has warned consumers to think twice before booking airline tickets with a Swedish-based travel company called GoToGate.
Carol McFadden is now almost £300 out of pocket - with little hope of recouping the money - after a duplicate website booking.
The problem arose after the company took two payments within minutes from her credit card for identical flights booked with British Airways for the same people on the same day.
But although GoToGate has now cancelled one booking, Mrs McFadden has been told there are “no guarantees” of a refund following a “process” that may take 12 weeks.
The firm, which has a head office in Oslo, has also said that the mother-of-two will be charged a £55 fee if the duplicate payment is later reimbursed.
Mrs McFadden (57), a retired Belfast Metropolitan College information officer, said she wanted to warn other consumers about the perils of using the GoToGate website.
“I’m very angry this company charged me £511.28 for two identical flights and has now said that I probably won’t get a £255.64 refund for the second payment,” she said.
“Nobody on earth would book flights for the same people at the same time on the same date - but their website never confirmed that my initial booking was successful.
“GoToGate has now agreed to complete a form for British Airways but there’s no guarantee I’ll get a refund. They also said they will retain £55 for administration.”
The Belfast Telegraph sent two emails to GotToGate on Mrs McFadden’s behalf but on each occasion the email bounced back saying the complaint had not been registered.
We then telephoned the number indictaed on its website twice but they wouldn’t let us speak to a manager and they also refused to give us an alternative email address.
And although a customer service representative assured us a manager would phone back, we still have not received a call.
Mrs McFadden, who lives in Dunmurry with her 55-year-old husband Jim, a civil servant, said she had never used the GoToGate website before.
“Myself and a friend are going on a trip to America in November via Heathrow so I googled ‘flights from Belfast to London return’ and this site came up,” she said.
“I tried to make a booking but every time I put in my credit card details it kept saying it wasn’t authorised so I tried a number of different cards before giving up.
“But later, when I checked my emails, I noticed that I had two different confirmations, within two minutes of each other, saying that I had been successful.”
Mrs McFadden, who said she was “ripping mad”, immediately contacted GoToGate without success, followed by her credit card provider, once she realised what had happened. “I was told they couldn’t cancel the second transaction because I had pressed the button and I really felt as if I’d been conned because of the website,” she said.
“The Capital One represenative was able, however, to set up a three-way conference call with myself and GoToGate, who agreed to cancel the second booking.
“I recently received an email saying the process could take eight to 12 weeks with no guarantees of a refund.”
Mrs McFadden, who has a 27-year-old son Christie and a daughter Toni (25), said she did want anyone else to have a similar experience when booking airline tickets.
A spokeswoman for the Trading Standards Service said consumers should not have to pay twice for a flight.
“Our advice in the first instance would be for the consumer to make a complaint to the trader at http://www.gotogate.co.uk/files/pdf/complaint-en.pdf,” she said.
“The trader is based in Sweden and if the matter cannot be resolved by complaining to the company, we would suggest that the consumer contact the UK European Consumer Centre, whose role is to deal with cross border disputes. See http://www.ukecc.net/”