Consumer Protection BC has posted an information bulletin for travel agents regarding their obligations during the coronavirus outbreak, including information about refunds, cancellations and business failures.
Regarding refunds, Consumer Protection BC states that refunds for cancellation are up to individual businesses, advising that such terms must be disclosed at the time of booking, while also noting that the province’s Travel Assurance fund doesn’t cover voluntary cancellations or unforeseen circumstances such as the coronavirus outbreak.
The organization also lists advice for agents if their clients’ travel plans have been impacted by a cancellation made by a third party:
- Ask about the options: some airlines and wholesalers are offering options for re-booking. While your customers may not receive the travel services on the desired date, they may be able to rebook travel services on another date or possibly receive a refund. Be aware that in some cases, they may be required to pay the difference between the original booking and the new booking.
- Confirm cancellation rights: If travel services resume but your client still wishes wish to cancel, refer to the travel service provider’s terms and conditions on cancellation.
- Review the Itinerary: While many people may remember to check flights, remind them to contact any accommodation providers and tours that may have been booked to find out cancellation rights and responsibilities.
- Understand the travel insurance policy: If travel insurance was purchased, your customer should contact their insurance provider to find out their policy on cancellation due to COVID-19.
- Check with the credit card provider: If your customer’s travel services are not provided and services were paid for by credit card, the credit card company may provide a refund for the travel services that were not provided.
Other provinces’ policies
The policies regarding refunds for voluntary cancellations outlined by Consumer Protection BC are similar to those of other provincial regulators.
In an interview with PAX this week, Travel Industry Council of Ontario President & CEO Richard Smart said that in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, refunds in Ontario on previously-booked flights, cruises or packages are largely subject to the original terms and conditions of the booking, which must be presented and discussed – alongside relevant destination information and advisories – by travel agents at the time of booking.
In Quebec, the Office de la protection du consommateur states that ‘travel agencies are not required to reimburse’ travellers unless stated in the contract.
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