Citi Bike refund problem reveals flawed laws

Posted at 6:42 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 18:42:29-05

NEW YORK -- It seems everyone shops online these days, right? Well then all of us need a big heads up. In New York, we don’t have the same refund rights shopping online as we do when we go to retail stores.

New York State and New York City have regulations covering in-store refund policies.

In the city, a store that doesn’t want to give cash refunds has to have its refund policy conspicuously posted. If there is no such sign, a consumer has 20 days to get a refund anyway.

But PIX11 found out that these laws that protect consumers in stores don’t apply to online shopping.

That’s why Blair Boyer found himself in a little dispute with Citi Bike, the popular city bike sharing program.

Blair loves using Citi-Bike. He has a one-year subscription and rides to his Midtown job every day he can. He likes it so much he bought a one-year subscription for a friend for $162. But his friend had bad knees and couldn’t use it. So Blair asked for a refund.

He was surprised at the response.

They said, "we don’t give refunds."

They said, because it’s somewhere in the website 'we’re not going to refund your money.'"

But Blair pointed out the site’s refund policy section never said anything about “no refunds.” Here’s the voicemail message he got back from Citi-Bike customer service:

“It does say I the F-A-Q section that the gift certificates are non-refundable. So we will not be issuing a refund for the gift certificate that you purchased.”

The Frequently Asked Questions section? Why put the “no refund” policy there? There’s no guarantee anyone would ever see it before purchasing the gift certificate.

Citi Bike offered Blair a one-year extension of his own membership. But he didn’t need that. So Blair contacted us. He said if we got his money back he’d donate it to his favorite charity, The Bowery Mission.

We got in touch with Citi Bike and its parent company, Motivate (which, by the way, is headed by former MTA boss Jay Walder).

We acknowledged the company seems to be legally ok doing what it did. But is that right?

After a little back and forth, the company agreed to refund Blair all his money. And it added a sentence to its refund page: “Gift Certificate purchases are non-refundable.”

Blair is happy and did donate his refund to the Bowery Mission. And the New York City Consumer Affairs Department says it’s considering updating its refund regulations to include online sales.