Airline's Chatbot Lies About Bereavement Policy After Passenger’s Grandmother Dies

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The company argued in court that it “cannot be held liable for the information provided by the chatbot.”

Tech Crunch

Picture yourself in this scenario: your grandmother dies in another part of the country, so you get on an airline website where a friendly chatbot convinces you to buy an airplane ticket now at full price to get to the funeral and apply for a refund later for the discounted bereavement fare.

But when you attempt to do what the bot suggested and apply for the refund after the funeral, the airline tells you the AI was wrong and the discounted bereavement fare doesn’t apply to completed trips like yours, leaving you on the hook for hundreds of dollars you didn’t anticipate.

We kid you not, that’s exactly what happened to a Canadian man named Jake Moffatt, when his grandmother died in November 2022 in Toronto, the CBC reports. Moffatt had to travel from British Columbia for the funeral.

Adding insult to injury, Air Canada, the airline in question, claimed during a small claims court hearing on the matter that the company “cannot be held liable for the information provided by the chatbot.”

This week, government officials issued an order to Air Canada to pay Moffatt a total of $812.02 for the difference between full and bereavement fare.

In other words, the government basically rejected its claim that “the chatbot is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions.”

Bot Fair

Companies are rushing to deploy chatbots to customer interactions, even if they’re not ready for prime time. The Air Canada chatbot is a particularly egregious example.

But what’s especially troubling is the liability issue concerning chatbot AI tech, which is still developing.

When a company tries to distance itself from the actions of a chatbot or AI, this may set a bad example for other businesses to follow but also raises the thorny subject of liability: who’s liable, the company that deploys the AI, the company that developed the AI tool, or the customer?

Hopefully, like in the case of Air Canada, common sense will prevail and ordinary folks won’t be left holding the bag.

More on chatbots: Chinese Women Say AI Boyfriends Are “Better Than a Real Man”

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