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A company is responsible for information provided by its chatbot

A company is responsible for information provided by its chatbot

What you need to know

A company which includes a chatbot on its website may be held liable if the bot provides wrongful advice or information.

In November 2022, a individual booked a flight on Air Canada to attend the funeral of a close relative. Before purchasing the ticket, he used the chatbot accessible on the company’s website.The chatbot suggested that he could request to benefit from their special bereavement fare, i.e. purchase a full fare ticket and request a partial refund of the ticket price within 90 days from the date of booking.  

When he requested the refund, the company refused to apply this special rate on the ground that contrary to what had been suggested by the chatbot, the request had to be submitted prior to using the ticket.

The client argued that he had merely followed the procedure suggested by the chatbot on the company’s website. But, according to Air Canada, the passenger should have checked the bereavement fare policy on the website static page, accessible from the hyperlink provided by the chatbot.

The client sued Air Canada before the Civil resolution tribunal of British Columbia to request the application of the special rate.

According to Air Canada, the chatbot is a separate legal entity, that is responsible for its own actions. The company cannot be held liable for information provided by a chatbot

The judge dismissed this argument, stating that Air Canada didn’t explain why a static page on the bereavement fare policy would be more trustworthy than the response provided by an interactive tool, which is available on the company’s website. As publisher of its website, Air Canada is responsible for the content of the website, whether the information is provided through a static page or through a chatbot.

The judge held Air Canada liable of negligent misrepresentation and ordered the company to pay damages to the passenger. (1)

Although this decision was rendered by a Canadian civil court, it is interesting, viewed from Europe. The judge applied classic internet law, i.e. the publishers liability regime applicable to the contents provided by the party operating a website. Indeed, a chatbot can be considered a functionality, included in the website. The website publisher must insure that this information is correct and not misleading, regardless of its communication method, through a web page or through an interactive tool. The publisher may then be held liable for providing misleading information, such as the price of a plane ticket.

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(1) Moffatt v. Air Canada, 2024 BCCRT 149, 14 février 2024


Deleporte Wentz Avocat

Mai 2024