Some ex-customers of the now defunct Air Berlin who received money back through credit card chargebacks might receive a nasty surprise these days as the insolvency administrator is now asking for the money back.
We’ve covered Air Berlin extensively and when the time came that the company declared bankruptcy it really didn’t surprise too many who have been watching the state of the airline for years.
As it is the case whenever an airline goes bust the customers who hold active tickets that weren’t purchased as part of a travel package are usually left high and dry. A very popular and practical way is to contact your credit card company or bank (in case of direct debit) to reverse the transaction and initiate a chargeback.
The crux of the matter is that under German law only the court appointed insolvency administrator is authorized to refund money from the remaining funds/estate of a bankrupt company to creditors. Going the chargeback route is considered cutting into the chain of dispersal and actually illegal. Yes, it sounds absolutely absurd that it’s illegal to claw back your money for services you never received but that’s Germany for you.
Now the BILD Zeitung and other media reports that the insolvency administrator is sending out invoices to customers who got their money back through a chargeback.
According to the article there are still 1.2 Million creditors that have registered for a refund of sorts from whatever is left over after the airline filed for insolvency in August of 2017.
The first invoices now went to passengers who either flew the entire or part of the ticket and still filed for a chargeback. I’m not sure why someone would ask for that if the entire ticket has been flown but those who were left behind half way and then had to purchase a new ticket on a different carrier might have a point here.
Roughly 10,000 chargebacks have been initiated against Air Berlin but so far only these 679 whose tickets were at least partially used have received an invoice from the administrator. There is still an ongoing investigation, pending decision about the remaining transactions where tickets were definitely not used and lost all value.
These protections by the credit card issuer are pretty much theoretical and depend on the local law and jurisdiction. In the case of Germany it’s not permitted to unilaterally claw your money back this way but the worse that can happen is that the administrator would eventually attempt to obtain payment by sending you a bill. How enforceable this is outside Germany is a different matter though.
In Air Berlin’s situation it appears strange who would ask for a chargeback if the service had in fact already been rendered which means people had flown both sectors of the ticket. Surely this would surface at some point or did they expect this to go under? Filing a fraudulent claim could also have repercussions by both the bank and of course the authorities.