Disgruntled customers filed a request to institute a class action lawsuit in Canada last week in Montreal’s Palais de Justice against Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). The RBC class action lawsuit proposal concerns the bank’s refusal to refund card holders’ Rewards points used to purchase flight tickets that were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Similar class action lawsuits in Canada have been filed against Canada’s major airlines, including Air Canada and Air Transat. This class action lawsuit is particular, however, because the plaintiff leading the RBC class action lawsuit, Nathalie Nasseri, purchased the airline tickets through her RBC Rewards points.
RBC card holders who purchased flights using their Rewards points, effectively bought the tickets through RBC. The bank determined the price of each ticket and all the necessary arrangements were made by RBC as well. Additionally, card holders who purchased airline tickets using their Rewards points did not interact with any airline.
The RBC class action lawsuit includes any person who is a member of the RBC Rewards program, redeemed RBC Rewards points to purchase airfare, had a trip cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was not refunded the RBC Rewards points redeemed for the purchase.
Nathalie purchased two Air Canada tickets for her parents using her accumulated RBC Rewards points in November 2019. The ticket purchases totalled 172, 928 points, with a monetary value of $1, 729.28. The flights were planned for April 3, 2020, according to the RBC class action lawsuit.
RBC made all the arrangements with Air Canada. Much to Nathalie’s dismay, however, on March 30, she received an email notifying her that the flights she purchased were cancelled due to the COVID-19 shutdown. In a somewhat deceitful manner, argues the RBC class action lawsuit, the bank stated, “No need to call us, we are taking care of you.” Nathalie claims that the wording of RBC’s assurance suggested that they would take care of the entailing refunds and reimbursements.
“Illusionary” RBC Rewards Points
Almost a month after receiving the first RBC email, Nathalie received another one informing her that Air Canada was offering $864.64 for each ticket she purchased, in the name of person on the original airline ticket, the RBC class action lawsuit claims.
However, Nathalie was surprised to find out that RBC would neither refund her this money, nor the equivalent in Rewards points. Rather, RBC offered that she could use Air Canada’s credit to buy future flights within a certain time-frame that had not yet been determined.
RBC’s “offer” would therefore be of little use to Nathalie or anyone else in her position, because she booked the flights for her parents in their names. As such, she was barred from booking another trip for herself using the credit.
The RBC class action lawsuit alleges that the use of RBC’s Rewards points in this case and in similar cases were “illusionary.” The reasons put forward by Nathalie’s legal counsel are twofold: First, Nathalie will not use the Rewards points credited to her for future Air Canada travels for her parents, because they no longer wished to travel after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second argument brought forward is based on Air Canada’s financial instability following the COVID-19 health crisis. If Air Canada were to go out of business before the credit is redeemed, Nathalie would receive no benefit from the Rewards points whatsoever.
Dissatisfied Customers Still Awaiting COVID-19 Refunds
Major Canadian airlines have been hit with several Canada class action lawsuits over similar claims, due to their decisions to provide passengers vouchers or credits rather than refunds for COVID-19 flight cancellations.
Air Canada, Sunwing, West Jet and their wholesale travel groups are named in a Canada-wide class action lawsuit, after they refused to refund passengers for cancelled flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is also named in a Canada class action lawsuit over charges that the CTA inappropriately took the side of the airlines offering vouchers instead of refunds to passengers who had to cancel their flights.
A Quebec class action lawsuit is targeting Air Transat. Echoing the previous Canadian airline class action lawsuits, this case takes issue with Air Transat’s refusal to refund travellers for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RBC class action lawsuit is seeking the restitution and recovery of non-refunded travel ticket purchases as well as punitive damages.
Did you purchase flight tickets using RBC’s Rewards points, or rewards points through another credit card company? Were your points refunded? Share your story with us in the comments below!
Nathalie and Class Members are represented by James Reza Nazem.
The RBC Class Action Lawsuit is Nathalie Nasseri v. Royal Bank of Canada, Case No. 500-06-001086-202, in the Superior Court of Québec, District of Montreal, Canada.
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