Understanding your right to a refund for COVID reservation cancellations

Your vacation has been canceled, you have requested a refund from the provider, and you are still expecting your refund more than a year later.

It’s a common story shared by thousands of Australians whose travel plans have been disrupted due to the pandemic.

Travel complaints filed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission increased 450% in 2020 compared to 2019.

The most common complaints came from:

  • Customers who wanted a refund after their vacation bookings were canceled due to COVID-19
  • Customers struggling with cancellation or service charges on canceled travel bookings.

The new daily spoke to dozens of disgruntled travelers, including a couple who spent more than $ 27,900 on a Russian vacation that never happened.

While some providers offer travel credits for use at a later date, most customers – especially retirees with little cash – just want a full refund.

So what can you do about it?

Unfortunately, normal legal protections under the consumer guarantee provisions of Australia’s Consumer Law are unlikely to apply to cancellations caused by government restrictions such as COVID blocks.

An ACCC spokesperson said that in these situations it is likely that your right to a refund or other remedy like a travel credit will depend on the terms and conditions of your booking.

“Terms and conditions will vary from travel provider to travel provider and in some cases consumers may not be entitled to a full refund – or any – refund of their reservation,” the carrier said. word.

“Certain terms and conditions may provide for the ability to re-book, or credit notes, rather than refunds for canceled bookings.”

Your rights to a refund will be different under three scenarios:

  • The company cancels the reservation
  • You cancel the reservation
  • Reservation cannot be continued due to government restrictions.

Your consumer warranty rights should apply if the Company cancels the booking for reasons within its control.

For everything else, carefully review the terms and conditions of your travel agency.

Look for a “force majeure” clause that covers what happens if the reservation cannot take place for reasons beyond your control and control of the company.

If you book through a travel agent or other third party, the policies and terms and conditions of the travel agent and the travel suppliers will apply and you should verify both.

Timing matters

Your entitlement to a full refund may also depend on when you booked your trip, according to Jeannie Paterson, professor of consumer protection at the University of Melbourne.

If you made a reservation before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the airline canceled the flight due to the lockdown, you are legally entitled to a refund, Professor Paterson said.

For example, if you made a reservation in October 2019 to travel to Bali during the June / July 2020 vacation and the airline canceled the flight due to COVID, you are legally entitled to a refund.

“A lot of airlines have given credit, but in fact you have the right to ask for a refund rather than get a credit,” said Professor Paterson.

In other situations, it gets a bit more complicated.

What happens if you cancel

For example, if you canceled your flight due to blockages, instead of waiting for the airline to cancel it, some airlines will blame you for cancellation and therefore refuse to offer a refund or credit.

Professor Paterson said this was a “really tough response” given that the pandemic is out of the client’s control.

But some airlines do it anyway.

“Travel insurance generally does not cover COVID lockdowns,” she said TND.

Many tourism operators and accommodation providers will either offer a refund or travel credit if you cannot travel due to COVID.

Some will offer nothing.

If you have purchased domestic flights in other countries, it is also difficult to get the money back.

Overseas flights have different rules

For example, if you purchased a flight with a Polish airline from Warsaw to Krakow, Australian protections do not apply and you may not be reimbursed.

However, if you have booked a flight from Australia with an international airline, Australian law applies so you are still entitled to a refund, Professor Paterson said.

As for the cancellation fees, she said the client should not be forced to pay them in circumstances where the government has intervened and people cannot travel.

“If you cancel very close to the deadline, you might lose a small amount in terms of cancellation fees, but the general rule is that you have the right to get that money back because you can’t travel,” he said. declared Professor Paterson.

Always read the COVID policies of tour operators before booking.

In the event of a dispute, you can contact your local fair trade agency for assistance.

If you believe a travel supplier is misrepresenting your right to a refund for a canceled trip, you can report it to ACCC.

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