Have refund rights changed?

Sam is planning a trip to north Queensland but is worried about his rights if things change.


Q. Sam
My wife and I were thinking of taking a trip to north Queensland in October and doing a tour of the Daintree Rainforest among other things. We are close to booking but we are worried about what happens should the COVID-19 situation change? It doesn’t take long for the best laid plans to be ruined in the current climate; what are our rights to a refund if the situation changes? Would we get our money back or would the trip just have to be postponed and taken at another time? We wouldn’t want to miss the boat and then be forced to take our trip in the wet season, or at a time that didn’t suit our plans.

A. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) produced new guidelines for COVID-19 travel cancellations last month to better protect people booking travel and to make the industry aware of its obligations.

According to the guidelines, if the terms and conditions of your ticket or booking state you are entitled to a refund you will get a refund, so the first thing to check at the time of the booking is the terms and conditions you make the purchase under.

You will also be entitled to a free-of-charge refund if you are entitled to one under the common law or under your relevant state or territory legislation.

Booking terms and conditions may state that the payment of a refund may be contingent on the recovery of funds from a third party or may detail cancellation fees or providing a credit not rather than a refund.

The key guidance is to check the terms and conditions of all your travel bookings before you accept and make sure you are happy with them, so you know what to expect if the situation changes.

The ACCC expects refunds to be paid in a reasonable time but has stated that the pandemic often means businesses are given more leeway to process vast numbers of cancellations and refunds.

Travel companies can offer consumers who are entitled to a refund the option of accepting a credit note instead. In these circumstances, the choice between accepting a credit note or refund lies entirely with the consumer.

If you are entitled to a refund and opt for a refund over a credit note, the refund must be paid. If the company fails to provide a refund in these circumstances, they will be breaching the Australian Consumer Law.

Have you had to claim a COVID-related refund on travel? How long did you have to wait? Are you still waiting? Are you nervous to book travel in the current climate?

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