Hotel Scam: Charged for Fake Damage

Hotel Scam: Charged for Fake DamageAn AFF member was mortified recently to discover an Australian hotel had processed $500 in erroneous charges after check-out.

Mark3000 called the hotel to ask why their credit card had been charged $500 without their knowledge. The “aggressive” hotel manager claimed that this member had caused damage to the room. Mark3000 refutes this claim and the hotel has refused to provide proof of the “damage”. Two months later, this hotel has stopped replying to emails and the member is still waiting for a refund.

This member has already tried to initiate a credit card chargeback. However, the hotel has allegedly told the credit card provider that the charge was legitimate and requested that it be reinstated.

We had some issues on check in with a nasty manager but our stay at this hotel went fine. A week after checkout, we found $500 on our credit card statement and called to ask why. This manager who is really aggressive and nasty claimed that “ornaments” were damaged and there was damage to the paint on the wall. This is in an old apartment that hasn’t been renovated in 10 years.

We thought we would be OK disputing the charge with Amex but the manager wrote to them saying we damaged ornaments and Amex have said the charge will be put back on. Apart from small claims court, what are our options.

So, what are Mark3000‘s options in disputing the erroneous charges for damage they did not cause?

Firstly, our members are surprised that the credit card provider agreed to reverse the chargeback without the hotel providing proof of the damage. The onus should be on the hotel to provide proof that the charge is justified, rather on the guest to prove that they didn’t damage the room.

As this case does not involve an Australian airline, they unfortunately can’t just go to the Airline Consumer Advocate. But one AFF member suggests that the Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to help. Alternatively, taking the hotel to court remains a last-resort option – even if it’s not an ideal arbitration method for either party.

Amex can’t reverse the chargeback because the onus is not on you to prove a negative (that you didn’t damage anything) – the onus is on the merchant to prove that damage occurred, that it was caused by you, and that you had a liability to pay for it. If Amex don’t budge then FOS and Small Claims Court should definitely be considered.

These kinds of “fake damage” scams are far more common with rental vehicles than with hotels. We often advise customers to check rental cars thoroughly on pick-up for damage. Hopefully such hotel scams do not become common enough that the same process becomes necessary when checking into a hotel room.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Hotel charged $500 after checkout without telling us


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]