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WestJet travel credits are not gift cards, rules B.C. court

WestJet credits for cancelled flights, lost luggage and other issues aren't like prepaid gift cards and can expire, states a recent ruling from the B.C. Court of Appeal.
WestJet travel bank credits expire after one year. Some can be extended for a fee. Photo: WestJet

WestJet’s travel credits are not like gift cards and can expire after a year, B.C.’s Court of Appeal said April 27.

The Calgary-based airline issues WestJet travel bank credits (WTB) to customers for things such as cancelled flights, lost luggage and customer dissatisfaction.

However, the credits expire after one year, although some can be extended for a fee.

Vancouver’s Tiana Sharifi received such a credit after she bought and then voluntarily cancelled a flight. She used part of the credit but the rest expired one year later.

She subsequently brought a claim against WestJet, alleging the credits constituted prepaid purchase cards or gift cards under various provincial consumer protection statutes and, as such, were precluded from having expiry dates and charging additional fees.

Sharifi claimed WestJet is prohibited from charging fees to extend the one-year expiry date.

The lawsuit was certified as a B.C. Supreme Court class action in 2020.

However, WestJet appealed the certification order and claimed the judge erred in finding that the claim disclosed a reasonable cause of action.

The airline argued the credits are not issued in exchange for the future supply of goods or services but rather as a refund or to compensate for inconvenience or as a promotional tool.

In the case of credits used in a refund sense, WestJet submitted those credits are effectively “store credit” with no indication that prepaid purchase card laws were intended to apply to such a device.

“Ms. Sharifi purchased a prepaid flight,” Justice Patrice Abrioux said. “She did not purchase a prepaid purchase card, gift card, gift certificate or otherwise, for WTB credits.”

The appeal court agreed with the airline and dismissed Sharifi's case.

“The travel credits in question do not fall within the definitions contained in the relevant consumer protection legislation and thus the pleadings do not disclose a reasonable cause of action,” the ruling stated.

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