A payment made on a basis which fails can be recovered. So, if I pay for cigarettes, and the price includes an amount for a tax which is subsequently found unconstitutional, the basis for that excess amount has failed, and I can recover the tax amount that wasn’t due (see Roxborough v Rothmans of Pall Mall Australia Limited (2001) 208 CLR 516;  HCA 68 (6 December 2001)). It follows that if I book to travel with an airline, and pay their fee plus taxes and charges, but if I then don’t travel, so that the charges are not incurred and the taxes are not due, the basis for those taxes and charges has failed, and I ought to be able to recover them. If the contract between me and the airline contains clauses making them irrecoverable, (or, what amounts to the same thing, imposing disproportionately high administration fees) such clauses are almost certainly unenforceable (on foot of the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations, 1995 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995), the English equivalent of which have recently been applied by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) against an airline’s terms and conditions).
These musings are prompted by the following story in the Price Watch column in today’s Irish Times (sub req’d):
No guaranteed refund if you don’t take your Ryanair flight