Advice for travellers affected by COVID-19 confusion and cancellations
Consumer Protection is advising WA holidaymakers to carefully consider the terms and conditions of their travel bookings in relation to cancellations or postponements, with recent border openings expected to spark a travel surge particularly over the Christmas and summer holiday season.
Travellers should consider what their options might be if border closures or restrictions are re-imposed before or during their dates of travel.
When the cancellation of travel services is due to government restrictions, consumers may not automatically be entitled to the same remedy options, such as a refund, as they would be in normal circumstances under the consumer guarantees of the Australian Consumer Law.
The terms and conditions of each individual booking will usually determine whether affected consumers are entitled to a refund or other suitable remedy, such as a credit for future travel.
For that reason, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said cheaper options for travel bookings may not be the best choice under current circumstances.
“As a general rule, bookings that offer more flexibility regarding cancellations or postponements may cost more than bookings that don’t, so it is up to the consumer to determine how much they are willing to pay to have that flexibility and peace of mind or how much risk they are willing to accept,” Ms Chopping said.
“If you’re planning on booking travel, read the terms and conditions to see what the business is offering if pandemic restrictions come into place, but don’t base your decision on cost alone. Cheaper travel may be quite restrictive on what remedies are being offered, if any remedies for cancellations are offered at all.
“If you are impacted by sudden border restrictions, contact your travel provider as soon as possible in the first instance to discuss your options. If you cancel your travel booking before the provider cancels the service, this could be taken as a change of mind, in which case the business would not be obliged to refund your money.”
There have been almost 2,000 travel-related complaints lodged with Consumer Protection so far this year, with the number of complaints peaking during the months of April to July 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 restrictions (see attached graph).
“WA consumers who are not happy with the remedy being offered for cancellations by airlines or other travel providers, should lodge a complaint with us so we can take a close look at the cancellation policies linked to your booking,” the Commissioner said.
“Or if you believe the cancellation of a cheap flight was an attempt by the airline to get you to book one with a more expensive fare, then we’d like to hear from you as well.”
With regard to travel insurance, check with the insurer as to whether COVID-19-related cancellations or postponements are covered in your policy.
If you have an existing policy, read the Product Disclosure Statement carefully and contact your insurer if you have any questions concerning what is covered.
Travel-related complaints 2020 YTD*
For more information, check the FAQs on COVID-19 related travel issues. Travel consumers who are having trouble getting a remedy for a cancelled or postponed booking, can lodge a complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / email@example.com
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