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Lawsuit Questions Adequacy of United Disclosure

SmarterTravel

A new class-action lawsuit may reveal yet another instance of an airline’s volatile combination of dishonesty and ineptitude. Or it may be the height of frivolity and greed. Or something in between.

According to the Top Class Actions (“Connecting Consumers to Settlements, Lawsuits and Attorneys”) website, Cary David paid for DirecTV service on a United flight between New Jersey and Puerto Rico, assuming she’d be able to access the Internet throughout the flight. As it turned out, she was only able to remain online for 10 minutes, because of the flight’s over-water routing. Hence the complaint:

United sells these services to passengers on the flights and fails to disclose that the services will not work as advertised when the aircraft is outside the continental United States or is over water. It is not until they have crossed U.S. borders or are over water, with no service, that customers learn that their DirecTV and/or Wi-Fi service will not work for all or part of the flight.

The suit, Cary M. David, et al. v. United Continental Holdings Inc., et al., Case No. 2:15-cv-01926, proposes class-action status on behalf of all United customers who purchased DirecTV since 2012, and seeks compensatory damages.

The key question, of course, is whether United disclosed the route-related limitations of its DirecTV offering. And the suit acknowledges that such disclosure does indeed exist, but only on United’s website. So the question then becomes: Was the disclosure adequate?

It’s a fair question, and a vexing one. And it has implications that extend far beyond the particulars of the DirecTV Case. In an ideal world, full and efficient transparency would ensure that no consumer ever made a purchase with unrealistic expectations. But in the real world, with so many terms and conditions and restrictions and caveats and disclosures, there simply isn’t time and space enough to communicate them all at every point in the travel cycle.

United, predictably, has filed a motion with the court to have the case dismissed, arguing that its disclosure was clear and sufficient.

Reader Reality Check

Is the complaint legitimate? More generally, how much disclosure is enough disclosure?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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