Chatbot lies to grieving customer and Air Canada loses lawsuit

Airline Air Canada was sued by a customer to pay hundreds of dollars to a passenger for moral damages, after the company’s chatbot fabricated information that resulted in additional costs for the customer.

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In November 2022, Jake Moffatt booked a flight from Vancouver to Toronto following the death of his grandmother. He used the Air Canada website’s chatbot when searching for a flight and the tool told Moffat the bereavement fee, which could be applied up to three months after the ticket was issued.

“If you need to travel immediately or have already traveled and would like to submit your ticket for a reduced bereavement fee, please do so within 90 days of your ticket issue date by completing our ticket refund request form,” the chatbot told the passenger, who took a screenshot of the message, which was included in the process,

A link to information about the airline’s rules regarding bereavement travel was also included in the response. The page shows that the bereavement policy does not apply retroactively to tickets already purchased.

The passenger confirmed the information via the chatbot and paid $1,630.36 – with bereavement fees, the amount would be $949.48.

Air Canada justified that it could not be held responsible for the information shared with the public by the chatbot.

The judge in the case rejected that argument and noted that the company failed to take necessary precautions to ensure all information was accurately provided to customers.

“It should be obvious to Air Canada that it is responsible for all information on its website,” Justice Rivers wrote. “It doesn’t matter whether the information comes from a static page or a chatbot,” he concluded in decision available in a Canadian court.

The court ordered the airline to partially reimburse the customer US$812.02 for moral damages, interest and legal costs.

+ Read the full court decision (in English)

Air Canada told ArsTechnica that it would comply with the court’s decision and considered the matter closed.

Elmer Hayward

"Pop culture fan. Coffee expert. Bacon nerd. Infuriatingly humble communicator. Friendly gamer."

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