A record number of complaints have been lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as frustrated customers endeavor to get refunds on their cancelled holidays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several popular travel and cruise companies have been caught out trying to amend their refund policies as the pandemic unfolds and the tactics adopted have been heavily scrutinized by the media and ACCC.
Can I still get my money refunded?
Many pre-COVID contracts are being enforced to return the money to the customers. Due to the economic implications that the pandemic has had on small businesses, larger travel companies have been forced to a take on the burdens of smaller companies that have gone into liquidation. The trouble arises when these bigger companies face the impossible task of trying to recover paid funds from smaller and often international companies. Due to this, some companies are offering credit notes of up to 120% of the price paid as they do not have the funds to refund the customer.
Can Travel companies change the terms and conditions to say deny a refund?
The short answer to this is no. However, it is important that you have a copy of the contract on the day you entered into it. If the terms say that you are entitled to a refund, they cannot change the terms and therefore cannot deny a refund. If you suspect that a company has changed their terms you can lodge a complaint with the ACCC.
A credit note is better than nothing…right?
Customers should be wary when offered a credit or vouchers as you many be entitled to a refund. It is important to check the terms and conditions or your holiday. If there is a refund in your terms and conditions, the travel company can not alter these conditions and therefore cannot alter the conditions if refunding was an option.
What about cancellation fees?
If travel companies have policies to charge you a cancellation fee in the terms and conditions when you entered into the contract, they are able to enforce this fee. It is important that you check the terms and conditions of your contract when you signed it.
What do I need to do to enforce my rights as a consumer?
The easiest avenue for consumers is to look at the terms and conditions of the holiday when it was purchased. If you are entitled to a refund in the terms and conditions when you purchased the holiday you will be able to enforce this. However, if you can afford it an easier option for many has been to cancel and rebook the holiday for a later date. Many companies have been giving discounts to their consumers who have been affected by COVID-19 if they rebook or reschedule to a later date. It has been shown to be a quicker solution for many than that of a refund.
How can we help?
If you have a consumer law–related inquiry, do not hesitate to contact our Business Services team on 02 6285 8000 or by email.