Qantas customer’s $10,000 POLi payment ‘lost in the void’

A couple who used a popular online payment service to pay for more than $10,000 for Qantas flights are warning others of the risks after their money was found ‘lost in the void’ with no flight to show.

On July 10, Giacomo and Nikki Lichtner booked flights to the UK for Nikki and their two children through the Qantas website. Giacomo had booked his flights separately, as he was traveling for work.

The Wellington-based couple made the payment of NZ$10,894 (A$9853) using POLi – a service that allows customers to transfer money directly from their bank account to the merchant.

While the money left their bank account, the flights were not issued. The couple contacted their bank, which said the transfer would likely take place the next business day. But because they had used a third party – POLi – the bank was unable to use its usual follow-up process.

In the meantime, the couple have contacted Qantas, who said they would arrange the flights.f

When the Lichtners contacted POLi via an online form, they received a reply confirming that there had been a payment error and that the status of the transaction was “received not verified”.

POLi sent a screenshot and advised the couple to share it with Qantas so the airline could confirm receipt of payment and either process the transaction or issue a refund.

On July 14, the couple phoned Qantas again and this time were told their flights would be cancelled, with a refund to be made within 14 working days.

Assuming a refund was in the works, the couple went ahead and booked new flights, this time through a travel agent, priced at NZ$9,871.

However, on a subsequent call, Qantas told the couple they had no record of an outstanding refund and should contact POLi.

But POLi insisted Qantas had the money and said it was not involved in the refund process.

Nikki Lichtner said they felt “frustrated with helplessness” and couldn’t understand how their money could just be “lost in a vacuum”.

Following inquiries from Stuff Travel, a Qantas spokesperson said the refund had been approved and the funds had been dispatched for return to the Lichtners.

“We are reviewing what happened to these payments and will work with POLi to prevent it from happening again.”

But the couple thought others should be aware of the risks of using POLi to book flights.

“If an error occurs during the transaction, both parties can point fingers, leaving the responsibility of finding the money to the customer,” said Nikki Lichtner.

Giacomo Lichtner added that it had been almost impossible to get answers, with Qantas particularly difficult to contact.

“What really left us stranded was the lack of recognition and accountability.”

Other Qantas customers have reported issues with receiving refunds from the airline after paying using the POLi system.

Couple Nelson Simon Rutherford and Lisa Keenan waited more than 12 weeks for a refund after the airline canceled their flights. The couple were told that POLi was withholding their payment, but POLi denied this.

The couple were eventually refunded after Qantas’ New Zealand sales manager intervened following the publication of the Stuff Travel story.

POLi has not yet responded to requests for comment.

What is POLi?

POLi offers a way to make online payments that uses your internet banking information, instead of a credit or debit card.

The Australian company is owned by a wholly owned subsidiary of Australia Post.

Using POLi’s portal, a customer logs into their online bank. It’s free, with no additional registration required.

However, most banks advise customers against sharing passwords and login details with third parties, which could violate their terms and conditions.

Erica Penney, head of policy and systemic issues at the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, said POLi did not fall under their jurisdiction, as they only looked at the actions of banks.

However, if funds are missing during a payment – whether it is a credit card payment, an online banking payment or a payment initiated by a third party like POLi – they expect that the bank assist the customer in trying to trace and recover the funds to the extent that they could.

“Ultimately, if there is a dispute between the person who sent the funds and the agency that received them, resolving that issue is outside of the banking relationship, and the customer may want to ask for legal advice on what options they have if a merchant they paid to denies receiving their funds or failed to provide the service they paid for,” Penney said.

“The more parties you have involved, the murkier the waters get. If a third party like POLi and the merchant point fingers at each other, it can be really confusing for consumers.”

See also: Right now Australia hates Qantas. But it won’t last

See also: Couple ‘bubbling’ after Qantas canceled flight and booked baby on separate flight

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