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Tribunal Rules Air Canada Must Compensate BC Man for Chatbot Error

Air Canada has been ordered to reimburse a B.C. man after the airline’s chatbot gave him inaccurate information about bereavement fares.

The B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled in favour of Jake Moffatt this week, saying the airline “did not take reasonable care” to ensure its chatbot was accurate.

Mr. Moffatt used the chatbot on Air Canada’s website in 2022 while looking for flights to attend his grandmother’s funeral, according to tribunal documents. The chatbot suggested Mr. Moffatt could apply for bereavement fares retroactively by completing a refund application within 90 days of the ticket’s issue date.

Mr. Moffat applied for a bereavement rebate after paying full price for the flights, the documents show. He submitted his request, along with his grandmother’s death certificate, less than a week after the ticket’s purchase.

The airline denied the claim, saying the company does not permit retroactive applications.

Emails submitted as evidence to the tribunal showed Mr. Moffatt’s attempts to receive a partial reimbursement continued for more than two months.

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Mr. Moffatt finally sent the airline a screenshot of his conversation with the bot as proof of his claims in February 2023. Air Canada “admitted the chatbot had provided ’misleading words’” but still refused to issue the refund, the documents showed.

This prompted Mr. Moffatt to file a claim with the tribunal. Mr. Moffatt, in his submission to the Tribunal, said Air Canada should provide him with a partial refund because he relied on the chatbot’s advice.

Air Canada argued it could not be held liable for its chatbot’s error, saying it “is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions.”

Tribunal member Christopher Rivers called the airline’s defence “a remarkable submission” and has ordered the company to pay damages of $650.88 plus interest and court fees.

“While a chatbot has an interactive component, it is still just a part of Air Canada’s website. It should be obvious to Air Canada that it is responsible for all the information on its website,” Mr. Rivers said in his Feb. 14 decision. “It makes no difference whether the information comes from a static page or a chatbot.”

Mr. Rivers said Air Canada’s assertions that Mr. Moffatt could find the correct information on another part of its website, does not let the airline off the hook.

He said the company was unable to explain why the webpage titled “Bereavement travel” was “inherently more trustworthy” than its chatbot.

“It also does not explain why customers should have to double-check information found in one part of its website on another part of its website,” Mr. Rivers wrote. “There is no reason why Mr. Moffatt should know that one section of Air Canada’s webpage is accurate, and another is not.”

Air Canada said in a statement it would comply with the ruling, and that since it considers the matter closed, it has no additional information.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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