A Vancouver lawyer has launched a civil suit against online travel site Expedia after the company allegedly failed to honour a "best price guarantee" on a trip to the Dominican Republic.
In February, Anthony Shiau booked a return vacation package to Punta Cana, departing Vancouver on April 2 with WestJet, and staying two nights at the Melia Caribe Tropical. The total cost of the trip was $1,747.90.
Soon after, Shiau noticed the trip being offered at a cheaper price on WestJet's website, and over the next 24 hours the package continued to drop in price, finally reaching $1,449.63.
On its site, the Expedia "best price guarantee" states: "Find a cheaper identical trip within 24 hours of making your reservation and we'll refund the difference — and give you an Expedia.ca travel coupon worth $50."
As soon as Shiau saw the price drop, he says he sent a screen shot of the better deal to Expedia, then continued to send screen shots as the price dropped even lower. He said he had no expectation that Expedia would honour more than one of the reduced trips, just that they would honour the lowest price after the 24-hour period.
He requested a refund of $298.27, plus the $50 travel coupon.
But Expedia refused his request, saying it did not compare "apples to apples."
The company cited a series of technicalities that included a discrepancy between the way Expedia and WestJet display itinerary dates, and the fact that Shiau's screen shot of his original Expedia booking did not include the hotel room type.
"The exact same flight numbers," Shiau told CBC News. "Left at the exact same time. It was arriving at the same time, same hotel, same room, same style.… Everything was the same."
The discrepancy Expedia pointed out arose because of the way the two travel companies handle red-eye flights that leave late one day, arriving the next. Expedia made the trip dates April 3 to 5, while WestJet said April 2 to 5 — for the same flights.
"To me, it's just unbelievable," Shiau said. "They were trying to find a way to not honour the guarantee."
CBC News contacted Expedia Canada for comment and the company sent a statement by email.
"For Expedia.ca, the customer is our first priority," the statement says. "We are looking into Mr. Shiau's concern and will connect with him directly to find a resolution."